Brazil sees carbon market saving Amazon
Manaus, Brazil (AFP) Nov 7, 2008
Growing concern over climate change, and the potential of the carbon credit market, could give the Amazon forest a financial value rivaling the lucrative activities that are eating it away, Brazilian officials believe.
The Amazon -- the biggest zone of tropical woodland on the planet -- is already home to the Juma reserve, an area of half a million hectares that has become the first project in Brazil to achieve international certification for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by averting deforestation.
The government in Amazonas state want to replicate that model over 34 other reserves it manages, and it wants to use financing from the carbon market to help preserve the forest and improve the lives of people living within it.
"We will be a big player in the carbon market," said Virgilio Viana, director of the Sustainable Amazonas Foundation running the reserves.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in August launched an international Amazon Fund, which has already attracted a one-billion-dollar donation pledge from Norway's government up to 2015.
The carbon credits scheme resulted from the Kyoto accord, which came into force three years ago. It opened the way to monetize the shortfall in greenhouse emissions targets and have them traded on a world market.
But it does not acknowledge the reduction of emissions from deforestation of tropical forests in developing countries.
Brazil, the fourth-biggest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, mostly from deforestation, wants its fight to preserve its five million square kilometers of Amazon forest to be recognized as a service against global warming.
It argues that its efforts should be rewarded with financial input from other countries which would go to helping poor Amazon populations that might otherwise turn to cutting down trees.
Extra cash would contribute to slowing the alarming rate of Amazon forest devastation, which each year amounts to more than 10,000 square kilometers of razed land, it says.
Although the carbon credits scheme does not take into account forest conservation projects, there is a small but growing voluntary market made up of companies and organizations that want to offset their carbon footprints by investing in such environmental projects -- and, they hope, reap a public relations coup in doing so.
That is the case, for instance, with the Marriott Hotel group, which is involved in the Juma reserve. It asks guests staying in its chain to contribute a small amount of money for their greenhouse gas output, which goes to help the Juma conservation efforts.
But the Brazilian government wants a systematic approach and is seeking the post-Kyoto UN convention on climate change to consider those initiatives.
"We can't shut our eyes to the reality: forests have an important role in climate regulation and this has been noted in the past year by the UN in its negotiations," said Fernanda M¿ller, a researcher with the CarbonoBrasil group.
Maurik Jehee, the official in charge of carbon credits at Brazil's Banco Real bank, said: "The potential of the carbon credits market for reforestation and against deforestation projects is huge, but it depends so much on international negotiations."
Even though international certifications for verifying carbon-dioxide reductions in forest projects have greatly improved, they are still recent and "buyers are still cautious" over the perceived risk they hold, said Stefano Merlin, president of the Social Carbon Company. His firm created a certificate for carbon projects that provide social benefits.
A director for Greenpeace Brazil, Sergio Leitao, observed other obstacles to Brazil's ambitions.
Brazil's government had to overcome its reluctance to accept quantifiable targets to reduce deforestation if it wanted to attract donors, he said.
He also stressed the Amazon must not become a "cheap" option for the world's big polluters looking for an easy way to offset their greenhouse gas emissions.
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