From: Michael Astor, Associated Press
Published March 28, 2006 12:00 AM

Brazil Expands Amazon Protection as Global Environmental Conference Starts

CURITIBA, Brazil — Brazil announced plans to expand protection of the Amazon rain forest, and its president on Monday called on wealthy nations to do more to protect the environment.


President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva blamed industrialized nations for the "unsustainable patterns of production and consumption."


"It is unacceptable that poorer nations continue to suffer the main burden of environmental degradation," the Brazilian leader told cabinet ministers from more than 90 countries. His remarks came at the opening of three days of high-level talks at the eighth biannual Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity, sponsored by the United Nations.


The talks are a major test to the cabinet ministers' commitment to the 1992 treaty; and a U.N. report released at the conference said species were being lost at the fastest rate since the disappearance of dinosaurs -- or as much as 1,000 times faster than the natural rate of extinction.


"In a sense we are at a crossroads," said Marcelo Furtado of the environmental group Greenpeace.


Furtado said without tangible results from the conference, "pressing environmental issues could end up being dealt with at other forums like the World Trade Organization, where economic considerations take greater priority."


The Convention on Biological Diversity arose from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where more than 100 world leaders recognized that the world's environment was in danger and pledged to take steps to protect it.


The 11-day convention in Curitiba -- 400 miles southwest of Rio de Janeiro -- runs through Friday and is aimed at reviewing progress made toward goals set out at the Earth Summit.


Brazil's Environmental Ministry said late Sunday that 84,000 square miles of the Amazon rain forest -- an area about the size of Kansas -- would be declared a protected zone over the next three years.


The campaign is part of the Amazon Protected Areas Program, which banned development in some regions and created sustainable development zones in others.


The world's largest remaining wilderness, the Amazon region covers nearly half of Brazil and extends into five neighboring countries.


Greenpeace released maps last weeks showing that less than 10 percent of the world's forests remained intact, and environmentalists said governments worldwide have failed to honor their commitments to the Global Fund for the Environment, another product of the Earth Summit, leaving the fund with only $10 billion -- or $67 billion less than promised.


Source: Associated Press


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