Min­is­ter: Brazil can’t stop de­for­esta­tion with­out help

Orlando Sentinel - - NATION & WORLD - By Dorothee Thiesing, He­lena Alves and Marcelo De Sousa

MADRID — Brazil can’t stop de­for­esta­tion in the Amazon with­out the help of rich coun­tries, the coun­try’s en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter said at the United Na­tions’ twoweek cli­mate change con­fer­ence.

Ri­cardo Salles, who de­clined to set a tar­get for lim­it­ing de­for­esta­tion in the com­ing year, said in an in­ter­view Satur­day with The As­so­ci­ated Press that his coun­try is com­mit­ted to re­duc­ing il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity, but needs the sup­port of de­vel­oped na­tions.

“We are will­ing to do what­ever is nec­es­sary to do so, but we need that back up,” Salles said. “That back up was promised many years ago and we’re still ex­pect­ing the rich coun­tries to par­tic­i­pate in a proper way. Pro­por­tional funds are re­ally are what are go­ing to be needed for that task.”

While par­tic­i­pat­ing in the cli­mate con­fer­ence known as COP25, Salles is work­ing to as­sure oth­ers of the en­vi­ron­men­tal poli­cies of Brazil’s far-right pres­i­dent, Jair Bol­sonaro.

Bol­sonaro has squab­bled with some Euro­pean lead­ers this year over his com­mit­ment to pro­tect­ing the Amazon. He has wor­ried en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists by call­ing for more de­vel­op­ment in the Amazon re­gion. He also ac­cused ac­tivist groups, with­out ev­i­dence, of hav­ing set fires in that re­gion to un­der­mine his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

De­for­esta­tion in the 12 months through July reached the high­est an­nual rate in 11 years. Brazil’s an­nual de­for­esta­tion re­port re­leased in Novem­ber showed a nearly 30% jump from the prior year in the Amazon, which lost 3,769 square miles of for­est.

Salles said de­vel­oped na­tions should help Brazil on the ba­sis of Ar­ti­cle 6 of the Paris Agree­ment signed in 2015 on tack­ling the ef­fects of cli­mate change. The ar­ti­cle says mon­e­tary com­pen­sa­tion mech­a­nisms must be cre­ated to help de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

Brazil al­ready re­ceives money from wealthy na­tions, namely Ger­many and Nor­way, to fight de­for­esta­tion in the vast Amazon rain­for­est. Nor­way has do­nated $1.2 bil­lion to Brazil’s Amazon Fund since its cre­ation in 2008.

How­ever, both Euro­pean na­tions have sus­pended con­tri­bu­tions, cit­ing the con­tin­ued de­for­esta­tion and ques­tion­ing whether the gov­ern­ment wants to stop it. The Brazil­ian news­pa­per O Globo re­ported last week that the fund’s dis­burse­ments this year were the small­est since 2013, and said no projects were ap­proved de­spite the fact the fund has $530 mil­lion avail­able.

Salles in the past has ques­tioned the fund’s ef­fec­tive­ness. He said in the in­ter­view that Brazil is ne­go­ti­at­ing with the two Euro­pean coun­tries to restart the pro­gram. He said they ex­changed draft doc­u­ments, and he ex­pects them to meet next week to dis­cuss new terms of the fund.

Brazil now has “an ap­pro­pri­ate ap­proach on the prob­lem of de­for­esta­tion,” Salles said.

He said the gov­ern­ment is putting a new em­pha­sis on balancing pro­tec­tion with ef­forts to de­velop bi­o­log­i­cal re­sources that can pro­vide liv­ings for peo­ple in the Amazon re­gion.

“If we don’t solve the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment for more than 20 mil­lion Brazil­ians who live there and peo­ple who need to have this sus­tain­able, from both a fi­nan­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal per­spec­tive, they will be eas­ily co-opted by il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties,” Salles said.

PABLO BLAZQUEZ DOMINGUEZ/GETTY

In­dige­nous lead­ers from Brazil and an ac­tivist in Madrid protest oil pol­lu­tion and the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try be­cause of the dam­age it does to the poor­est com­mu­ni­ties in Brazil.

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