Brazil sets example on halting forest loss

The recent announcement by Brazil – one of the world’s top emitters of greenhouse gases from deforestation – that it is adopting new emissions reduction targets could help steer negotiators in Copenhagen toward a stronger climate change deal.

Brazil’s top environment ministers said late last week the country is committing to an emission reduction target of between 36.1 and 38.9 percent by 2020. Brazil announced those figures only a day after saying new data showed the lowest deforestation rates in the Amazon in the past 21 years.

The new commitment can help unblock and steer climate negotiations toward a new global agreement in Copenhagen, which will be considered next month, said WWF-Brazil CEO Denise Hamú.

“As Brazil announces these figures, it moves from a situation where it merely holds developed countries to account to a situation where it can be a role model in the establishment of a new low-carbon development model for the world,” Hamú said.

“It should be noted, however, that the data needs to be more detailed,” she said. “We are not sure which baseline scenario was used, that is, how the Brazilian government estimated Brazil’s emission growth trends by the end of the next decade. Neither do we know how we will reach those targets.”

“No detailed information is available on all actions across the various industries and on our low-carbon plan of action. It is fundamental that all government policies be consistent with the announcement made today,” Hamú said.

As far as international climate negotiations are concerned, Brazil now has a more legitimate case to demand a clearer financial support commitment from the developed nations for the establishment of adequate actions to adapt to the effects of global warming, according to WWF.

Data released by the Brazilian government earlier this month showed that the deforestation rate in the Amazon fell between August 2008 and July 2009. Overall, the deforested region is a 45 percent smaller than Amazon land cleared the previous year, or between August 2007 and July 2008.

This is the lowest rate of deforestation in the Amazon since record-keeping began in 2000, and down from a high of more than 27,000 square kms in 2004.

However, deforestation also must be reduced in other damaged forest areas in Brazil, such as in the Cerrado, according to WWF:

Despite conservation efforts, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate – 13 million hectares per year, or 36 football fields a minute. It generates almost 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and halting forest loss has been identified as one of the most cost-effective ways to keep the world out of the danger zone of runaway climate change.

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