Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Brazil Wants $21 Billion to Protect the Amazon Rainforest with No Strings Attached

On Friday, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva headlined an event to officially launch a new international fund that will raise money to protect the Amazon Rainforest. “We are conscious of what the Amazon represents for the world… It’s better for the country’s image to do things right, so we can walk in international forums with our heads high,” Lula pontificated.

It is hoped that the fund will raise up to 21 billion dollars over the next 13 years from nations around the world. Norway has already chipped in, pledging 100 million dollars to kick things off. Brazil has made it clear though that donations are only being accepted with a condition of no strings being attached. In other words, countries that donate money will have no say over how the money is used.

This stringent policy has its roots in resentment. Some Brazilians feel that they have been unfairly criticized by other countries for the deforestation of the Amazon. They claim that these nations often sit back and provide little in the means of help, or have their own environmental peccadilloes that make these slights toward Brazil’s conservation efforts hypocritical. Brazil’s Minister for Strategic Affairs, Roberto Mangabeira Unger, voiced this sentiment at the press conference: “The fund is a vehicle by which foreign governments can help support our initiatives without exerting any influence over our national policy. We are not going to trade sovereignty for money.”

According to one source, when carbon emissions from deforestation are included in the equation, Brazil ranks 4th worldwide in greenhouse emissions, only behind China, the United States, and Indonesia. The Amazon deforestation rate in Brazil has also increased somewhat this year. While Brazil is not the only country that contains the Amazon Rainforest within its borders, with 60% it does possess the largest single tract of the forest’s span. Eight other countries also contain parts of the Amazon, with Peru having the next largest piece of the pie at 13%. The difference percentage wise between the 1st and 2nd countries shows just how big of a player Brazil truly is when it comes to protecting the Amazon Rainforest.

The fund will be administered by a Brazilian bank owned by the government. The money will be used to support sustainable development projects like making condoms from rubber in trees, scientific research, and also to combat illegal logging. Whether or not the fund can attract donations remains to be seen– as well as Brazil’s ability to properly use the funds to sponsor legitimate efforts and research that will help to protect the Amazon. But the creation of the fund should be praised without doubt as an unequivocal step in the right direction for Brazil as leaders of conservation efforts in South America.

The Amazon Rainforest has been in the news quite a bit this year for several other reasons. The first photographs of a long-isolated tribe that live in the forest were released earlier this year, causing a media frenzy and false rumors of a hoax. The Brazilian Government’s plans to construct several new hydroelectric dams in the Amazon also came under scrutiny from numerous Brazilian tribes who claim they would be affected negatively by the dams.

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