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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EU optimistic on climate deal after Brazil pledge

Brazil’s pledge to cut climate-warming emissions to 1994 levels over the next decade could help lead to a breakthrough at global climate talks next month, the head of the EU’s executive body said on Saturday.

“This is a potentially decisive step to achieve a global deal in Copenhagen in December and to succeed in the fight against climate change,” Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said.

The climate talks in Copenhagen aim to hammer out a new deal for battling global warming after the current Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Brazil said on Friday it would take its emissions back to as low as 1994 levels of 1.7 billion tonnes — a cut of between 36.1 percent and 38.9 percent from projected 2020 levels.

Among the world’s biggest carbon polluters mostly due to deforestation, Brazil has become a major player in climate negotiations after years of rejecting such talks and saying the onus was entirely on rich countries to cut emissions.

Its gesture was seen as a possible way out of the deadlock in preparatory talks for Copenhagen that has arisen because rich countries have been slow to come forward with the billions of dollars needed to help poor nations tackle their rising emissions.

“All countries in the world have set December 2009 as a deadline for reaching an international agreement, and Brazil’s timing shows that this deadline works,” Danish climate minister Connie Hedegaard, whose country will host the negotiations, said in a statement.

“We are seeing more and more countries coming forward with climate plans.”

Many industrialized nations say they will not commit to handing funding to the developing world without getting concrete pledges of emissions cuts in return.