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August 23, 2008 / Mridul

Developing Countries Must Be Made Accountable For Reforestation Funds

Deforestation in Amazon rainforest

Deforestation in Amazon rainforest

Delegates at the United Nations Climate Conference are unable to build a consensus over an effective mechanism to control deforestation and thus reduce carbon emissions. Deforestation contributed 20% to the total carbon emissions worldwide and most of it happens in the poor and developing countries where vast stretches of forest cover are cleared for farming and other activities. While the poor and developing countries see this as an opportunity to cut an easy deal in the global fight against rising carbon emissions, the developed countries are concerned if the funds they would provide for reforestation would be used effectively.

To address the developed nations’ concerns regarding funds management, the developing countries also propose to place the entire reforestation program under the Clean Development Mechanism thus enabling them to earn carbon credits. But it is widely known the Clean Development Mechanism has its own drawbacks and inefficiencies. The developing countries are throwing weight behind such funding schemes as almost all developed countries want them to reduce their carbon emissions and reforestation seems the easiest way as it won’t have any significant affect on the fast growing economies of the developing countries.

Recently Brazil launched an international fund designed to receive $21 billion for restoration of the Amazon rainforests. By launching such a fund the Brazilian government hopes to attract money from developed nations which want to reduce their carbon emissions to limits mandated through the Kyoto Protocol. Norway initiated with $100 million. Now the catch. While announcing the fund, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said that,

Donations are voluntary and donors have no say over the use of the resources.

Brazil’s Minister for Strategic Affairs, Roberto Mangabeira Unger too minced words implicitly stating that the donor countries would have no say in the utilization of the fund.

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.

This clearly shows the intent of the government of Brazil. Seeing an opportunity it jumped to grab it. To attract hefty sums of money the Brazilian government was quick to project the worsening condition of the Amazon rainforests but when it came to the affects of excessive biofuel production on the forests the Brazilian President categorically denied that their production had any role to play in the deforestation.

Sugar-cane ethanol in Brazil is not a threat to the Amazon, it does not take land out of food production, nor does it take food off the tables of Brazilians or other peoples in the world.

Such opportunists are the developing countries that they opening demand compensation for not pursuing environmentally damaging projects in their own countries. South American countries are willing to ignore the catastrophic consequences of oil & gas exploration in the Amazon rainforests and are ready to allow companies to explore regions rich in biodiversity.

Detailed mapping of the region shows the majority of planned oil and gas projects, which are operated by at least 35 multinational companies, are in the most species-rich areas of the Amazon for mammals, birds and amphibians.

One can understand that the developing countries are feeling the heat of the rising energy costs and need resources to power their economies but their attitude reflects that they don’t want to share responsibility of reducing emissions. It is no surprise that this attitude jeopardizes all efforts to put together global mandatory emissions reduction program.

Developed nations’ eagerness to show they are working to reduce carbon emission also plays a major role in this problem. If they are willing to play million of dollars for sponsoring such programs they must ask for binding assurances from the developing countries otherwise any effort to towards reducing emissions would be negated.

Photo credit: leoffreitas (Creative Commons)

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