June 27, 2012
Compiled by Elizabeth Sweitzer – Brazil Institute, 6/27/2012
Photo credit: Sam Beebe, Ecotrust
The outcome of last week’s Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development foreshadowed the need for continued international cooperation concerning the environment, while also pointing to the economic implications of sustainable development. While the Conference’s outcome was met with mixed feelings, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered optimistic remarks on various international achievements while signaling to the U.S.’s most pertinent environmental initiatives. In her speech on June 22, Clinton urged nations to develop partnerships with private-sector industries, announced various U.S. initiatives to fund sustainable projects in developing nations as well as Brazil, and addressed promotion of women’s rights as integral aspects of sustainable development. Importantly for U.S.-Brazil relations, the speech also elucidated the nations’ joint commitments to urban sustainability projects and forest conservation.
Despite the U.S.’s assurance that their efforts will curb deforestation, the status of the Forest Code bill remains contentious in Brazil. The original Forest Code which dates back to 1965 is admittedly a very controversial document; it both sets protections on the forest while giving agribusiness sectors access to logging in order to farm. As a result, Brazil faced the blame for erosion of the world’s rainforest in some of its most vulnerable regions, including riverbanks and areas of incredible biodiversity. It was precisely these incidences which prompted the most recent revision of the forest code in 2012. Although President Dilma Rousseff vetoed parts of the proposed bill, many environmental activists still argue that the bill needs to be vetoed in its entirety.
The twelve most controversial sections, including a decree that would give amnesty to illegal deforestation prior to 2008, were amongst those sections vetoed. Ruralistas, farmers who grow on cleared land in the Amazon, argue that they need to Forest Code to maintain an income and support Brazil’s booming agribusiness sector. Various economists also suggest that keeping the bill will be necessary in order to avoid a harsh rise in food prices and economic turmoil. Other environmental activists contend that enough arid land already exists, and that Brazil could gain fiscal benefits from the international carbon market through forest preservation, especially considering the fact the rainforest absorbs some 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.
The government now has until September 25, 2012 to revise the forest code. Nevertheless, this debate remains entrenched in whether or not President Rousseff’s congressional support will be erased in the event she does ultimately veto the Forest Code. While she currently enjoys popular support for keeping Brazilian unemployment at a historic low, her efforts to promote social equality could be tested by the fact that ruralistas and the entire Brazilian agribusiness sector will be directly affected by a veto.
Even in the event the Forest Code is ultimately vetoed, Brazil faces another indirect factor. If the U.S.’s economic position changes, increased deforestation may occur due to renewed demand for commodities from the Amazon. Indeed, while the U.S. has recently experienced a weakened demand for corn and ethanol fuel from Brazil, Obama has been increasingly eyeing Brazil’s oil resources whilst Brazil cannot yet confirm its ability to supply the amount of oil the U.S. would need.
February 7, 2011
Paul Armstrong – CNN, 02/04/2011
A fisherman carries a boat's engine through parched rain forest on the banks of the Negro river in northern Brazil in 2010. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Two major droughts in Brazil’s Amazon region in the last six years threaten to undermine its role as the planet’s most important carbon sink and a vital brake on climate change, according to new research.
Scientists from Brazil and the UK concluded that last year’s Amazonian drought was more widespread and damaging than in 2005, which at the time was thought to be a “once in a century” event.
The Amazon River fell to its lowest level in decades, with many of its tributaries such as the Rio Negro completely drying up in some area. With tens of thousands of people dependent in the waterways for their survival, a state of emergency was declared in a number of towns in the region.
January 21, 2010
Raymond Collitt-Reuters, 01/21/10
Brazil will propose the creation of a joint fund with China, India and South Africa to help poor countries adapt to global warming as part of a broader attempt to revive stalled global climate talks.
Brazil’s Environment Minister Carlos Minc said in an interview late on Wednesday that he would make the proposal at a climate summit involving the four emerging market nations this weekend in New Delhi.
“Its purpose will be to help very poor countries adapt to climate change,” Minc said, adding that China had already expressed interest in the project.
October 7, 2009
Jonathan Wheatley-Financial Times, 10/06/09
Flickr user Visionshare from the Sophie Prize Foundation
Jonathan Wheatley, the FT’s Brazil correspondent, interviewed Marina Silva in her office in Brazil’s Senate on September 18. Ms Silva, who was elected to the Senate for the first time in 1994, was Brazil’s environment minister between January 2003 and May 2008, when she left in frustration at what she saw as the failure of other ministries to give due concern to environmental issues. She was a founder member in 1980 of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s leftwing Workers’ Party (PT) but left the party in August this year at the height of a corruption scandal involving José Sarney, president of the Senate, after Mr Lula da Silva threw his support behind Mr Sarney, a former political adversary. She has since joined the Green Party and is widely expected to run as its candidate in presidential elections next October.
FT: What do you expect of the Copenhagen meeting? What should Brazil demand of developed nations and what should it hope to achieve?
MS: First, I think we need to have a political posture that is coherent with what we want to demand. This means we should first make the effort internally to ensure that Brazil is committed to targets but that these should be global targets, not just for reducing deforestation but covering all sectors that produce emissions. How this will be done, how we will do the distribution, is something that needs to be worked on internally with transparency, involving the government, society, businesses and academia. I think this is a sine qua non.
Another aspect is that we have to reduce emissions in a way that ensures that temperatures rise by a maximum of two degrees, meaning a maximum of 450 particles per million [the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere regarded as a threshold beyond which global warming becomes irreversible]. This means a big effort by developed countries. And the architecture necessary to make this possible for developed countries should also allow emerging countries to make their contribution, so that we can reach this target at the global level and, by 2020, have a very strong signal that we are going to be able to achieve this by the middle of the century.
Read full interview…
September 23, 2009
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva-Global Viewpoint, 09/22/09
The international community stared at the abyss below but managed to pull back. Should we celebrate having avoided the worst? Should we sit back and wait for the next crisis? After all, the mirage that markets are self-regulating and that financial profiteering is somehow grounded in economic logic has finally collapsed. Yet even those countries that were not wooed by the promise of easy gains found themselves unshielded from this gale-force crisis.
When G-20 leaders first met in Washington last year, no fully worked out policy proposals were available. Yet they did not let themselves get bogged down in inertia or stalemate. They were aware that the current crisis reflects structural imbalances that reach far beyond financial misdoings. Climate change and growing global competition for energy resources and markets starkly confirm what we already knew: that globalization has made us ever more dependent on each other.
Last year Brazil took the lead in defending the consolidation of the G-20 as a forum of leaders who could bring rationality to bear in managing the crisis. The time had come for a show of political will and for undertaking fundamental structural adjustments.
This explains our dismay at the reluctance of developed countries to embrace proposals for reform of the Bretton Woods institutions. There is fierce resistance to putting teeth into financial markets’ oversight mechanisms. Banks are going back to the very practices that precipitated the recent chaos. Bankers continue to be overpaid, while millions of men and women lose their jobs. Nor do we understand why industrialized countries refuse to shoulder their share of the burden when it comes to fighting global warming. They cannot delegate to developing countries tasks that are theirs alone.
Read full speech here…
June 22, 2009
Stuart Grudgings and Brian Ellsworth-Reuters, 06/19/2009
Brazil will pay small farmers to plant trees in deforested Amazon areas to slow rain forest degradation, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Friday as he unveiled a broad plan to protect the region.
The effort may help stave off growing international pressure on Brazil to reduce deforestation that scientists say spurs global warming, providing alternative livelihoods to poor Amazon dwellers who live off timber exploitation.