Brazil tells foreigners stay out of Amazon

  • World
  • Tuesday, 17 Oct 2006

By Wafa Amr

BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazil on Tuesday rejected foreign proposals to buy and preserve land in the endangered Amazon, just weeks before its negotiators were due to present their own rainforest protection plan at global climate talks. 

"The Amazon is the heritage of the Brazilian people, and it is not for sale," Foreign Minister Celso Amorim and Environment Minister Marina Silva said in a signed article on the opinion page of Folha de S.Paulo newspaper. 

Two weeks ago Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported that British Environment Secretary David Miliband was promoting a proposal for an international trust to buy and sell trees in the Amazon, the world's largest rainforest and the source of about a quarter of all fresh water on earth. 

Environmentalists scoffed at the idea but the report reverberated in Brazil, which sees itself as the best caretaker of the vast Amazon, most of which falls within its sovereign territory. 

"Such proposals are ignorant of the realities of the Amazon rainforest," the ministers wrote. "Well-meaning individuals concerned about global warming should dedicate themselves to influencing their own governments." 

Brazil has been criticized because deforestation, which releases carbon from trees into the atmosphere, is responsible for about 20 percent of the human greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming. In Brazil, a huge swathe of rainforest is razed every year. 

But Brazilians counter that 80 percent of greenhouse gases come from burning fossil fuels like coal and oil, mostly by richer nations. 

Environment Minister Silva is known as a conservationist but some Brazilians, especially businessmen and farmers, criticize her for wanting to preserve too much land. 

When she first came to office in 2004, deforestation surged as global demand for soy and beef tempted farmers and ranchers to clear more land. The export income lifted Brazil's economy and helped pay debts and fund a program that now provides aid to some 11 million poor families. 

Deforestation slowed by a third in 2005 and is expected to slow a further 10 percent this year, owing partly to Silva's crackdown on illegal logging and partly to waning demand for soy and beef. 

Brazilian negotiators will present a new proposal to provide incentives for countries to voluntarily bring deforestation below 1990s levels at the next round of global climate talks in Nairobi next month. 

"We believe this is an appropriate way for developed countries to support the conservation of tropical forests," the ministers said in their article. 

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