No country has a larger stake in reversing the impact of global warming than Brazil. That is why it is at the forefront of efforts to come up with solutions that preserve our common future, without jeopardising the livelihood of millions of impoverished people who live off the land.
Brazil has policies aimed at conserving the Amazon forest and its priceless natural heritage. But the forest is also home to a culturally diverse population of 25 million, including some 170 indigenous peoples, along with hundreds of communities of rubber tappers, hunters and gatherers, and riverbank dwellers.
Preservationist approaches alone are ineffective in tackling deforestation, a factor causing global warming. We need to find enduring solutions. This is why we are investing in sustainable management of the forest that will provide a decent living for its inhabitants.
Just as no country can solve climate change alone, harnessing the wealth of a forest spread over eight countries requires international co-operation. For that reason, in 2008 Brazil launched the Amazon Fund. Over $20bn will be raised to finance conservation and sustainable development. These resources will be used to curb illegal logging, but also to develop alternative livelihoods. Norway has already pledged $1.1bn over 10 years for the fund. We hope others will follow.
The fight against deforestation is a central plank of our Action Plan Against Climate Change. It outlines clear targets for reducing illegal deforestation in the Amazon – a 72% cut by 2018. Brazil will thus prevent the emission of 4.8bn tonnes of carbon dioxide. The plan calls for increasing reforestation from the present 5.5m hectares to 11m in 2020. Brazil’s contribution also includes encouraging new clean energy sources, such as solar and wind.
Yet despite the long-term promise of solar and wind power, climate change requires urgent measures to avoid the doomsday scenarios described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This means drastically curbing our addiction to fossil fuels, which in the form of coal and oil burning account for 80% of greenhouse emissions. Brazil has been a trailblazer. It generates 46% of its energy from clean, renewable sources such as hydroelectricity and biomass – as against a global average of 13%.
Biofuels in particular play a central role in the global energy revolution we foresee. They are cleaner than petroleum-derived alternatives – over the last 30 years Brazil has avoided 644m tonnes of CO2 emissions by using sugarcane ethanol. Biofuels can foster economic and social development by generating secure jobs, as well as export earnings. We have shown that biofuels are compatible with growing food production and enhanced environmental protection. In Brazil, most sugarcane is grown 2,000km from the Amazon.
Brazil’s experience shows how developing countries can contribute to combating climate change globally. The incentive to act is clear, given that poorer countries already stand to suffer more harshly from the climatic disruptions largely caused by unsustainable patterns of production and consumption in richer countries. Yet this must not serve as a further excuse for rich industrialised countries to shirk their core responsibilities. It would add insult to injury if developing countries were expected to pay for the cost of reversing these dangerous trends.
As governments prepare for discussions in Copenhagen next December about how to cut global emissions, all countries must abide by the commitments of the Kyoto protocol. This means developed and developing countries have common – but differentiated – responsibilities on environmental protection. Brazil is showing the way ahead.