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Merkel urges Brazil to protect Amazon rainforest
by Staff Writers
Brasilia, Brazil (AFP) Aug 20, 2015

Brazil and Germany threw their weight Thursday behind the push for a global climate agreement later this year and stressed the vital importance of defending the Amazon jungle from deforestation.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her German counterpart Angela Merkel issued the joint declaration in Brasilia, where the German chancellor described Brazil as "key" to controlling greenhouse gases.

Rousseff called climate change "one of the great issues of the 21st century" and said the joint declaration reflected their "commitment toward the success" of the UN summit planned for December in Paris.

With its giant but vulnerable jungle and history of large-scale deforestation, Brazil is a central player in the talks where governments will try to strike a landmark deal on reducing damaging carbon emissions.

"Brazil is the key to all goals related to the climate," said Merkel, who was on a less-than-24-hour visit to Brazil.

She praised Brazil's work to halt what was once runaway forest clearance for new agricultural lands in the Amazon rainforest, even if the rate of destruction has picked up again this year, according to NGOs that monitor the Amazon.

"We are very satisfied that there have been very ambitious developments concerning the stopping of deforestation," Merkel said.

- Amazon vital to everyone -

The protection of the Amazon is not just vital to Brazil's climate policies but to the entire globe's, she added.

"It's also the key to maintaining biodiversity in the world, because Brazil is the richest country in the world concerning biodiversity," she said.

"What gets destroyed here cannot be replaced."

German government sources said that 550 million euros are being made available to Brazil to help its anti-deforestation and energy efficiency programs over the next two years.

The two countries have also agreed to a separate German-funded program for protection of certain areas in the Amazon.

In Brussels, EU Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete urged Brazil, along with Argentina, India, Indonesia and other big countries, to immediately submit targets for emissions reductions ahead of the summit.

In March, the European Union, the world's third biggest emitter, became one of the first blocs or countries to formally submit its pledge to the United Nations.

The second biggest polluter, the United States, and the biggest, China, have also submitted their pledges in the last few months.

- 'Expand trade' -

Meanwhile, Merkel was looking for something in return from Brazil, a huge emerging market which currently faces deepening economic problems but which is still seen by many as an important long-term trading partner.

German companies, including Volkswagen, BASF, Bayer and Thyssen-Krupp employ some 250,000 Brazilians.

The Brazilian foreign ministry says that one of Merkel's main objectives was for German investors to take part in Rousseff's plan for $64 billion worth of infrastructure projects, launched earlier this year.

"We can expand our trade," she said. "The German companies want, and are ready, to invest more in Brazil."

The visit was something of a public relations boost for Rousseff, who is fighting for her political life, with some in Congress suggesting she be impeached and huge street rallies against her taking place nationwide this past Sunday.

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