Brazil Tells Foreigners Amazon Not for Sale
BRASILIA, Brazil -- Brazil Tuesday rejected a foreign proposal to buy and preserve land in the endangered Amazon and asked former U.S. Vice President Al Gore to support a home-grown rainforest-protection plan.
Gore, who has become a prominent green campaigner since leaving office, is in Brazil to promote the Portuguese-language version of his new book on climate change, "An Inconvenient Truth".
"The former vice president will study the proposal and may become a supporter," Environment Minister Marina Silva said in a statement after meeting Gore in Sao Paulo.
Brazil wants international support to help preserve the Amazon, the world's largest remaining tropical rainforest. Negotiators will present the new conservation plan at a round of global climate talks in Nairobi next month.
Silva and Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said Tuesday the Amazon was the heritage of the Brazilian people and was "not for sale".
Their comments, in a signed article on the opinion page of Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, followed a report in Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper two weeks ago that British Environment Secretary David Miliband was promoting a proposal for a global trust to buy and sell trees in the Amazon.
The report angered Brazilians, who see themselves as the rightful owners and best caretakers of the jungle, most of which lies in its territory.
"Well-meaning individuals concerned about global warming should dedicate themselves to influencing their own governments," the ministers said, adding that most greenhouse gases come from rich nations burning fossil fuels like coal and oil.
SWATHE RAZED EVERY YEAR
Deforestation, which releases carbon from trees into the atmosphere, causes about 20 percent of the human greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming.
A huge swathe of rainforest is razed in Brazil every year, but protecting land is a touchy sovereign issue in a country where nearly a third of all people live in poverty.
The ministers' article said the proposal Brazil will present in Nairobi would create a global rainforest fund and provide incentives for countries that voluntarily bring deforestation below 1990s levels.
"We believe this is an appropriate way for developed countries to support the conservation of tropical forests," they said.
The current global agreement, known as the Kyoto protocol, exempts developing nations from lowering greenhouse gas emissions, a fact cited by the United States when it refused to sign on.
Silva is known as a conservationist but some Brazilians, especially businessmen and farmers, criticize her for wanting to preserve too much land.
When she first came to office in 2004, deforestation surged as global demand for soy and beef tempted farmers and ranchers to clear more land. The export income lifted Brazil's economy and helped pay debts and fund a program that now provides aid to some 11 million poor families.
Deforestation slowed by a third in 2005 and is expected to slow a further 10 percent this year, owing partly to Silva's crackdown on illegal logging and partly to waning global demand for soy and beef.