BRASILIA, Brazil Burning of the Amazon and other forestsaccounts for three quarters of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions and has madethe country one of the world’s leading polluters, a long-delayed governmentreport showed Wednesday.
The report is the first official recognition by Brazil of the vast scale ofburning of the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical forest and home to up to 30percent of the planet’s animal and plant species.
Environmentalists said the findings in the report would probably make Brazil theworld’s sixth largest polluter. They said it could give impetus to richcountries’ calls for leading developing nations to share in the burden ofcutting greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming.
The report, or inventory greenhouse gas emissions, showed Brazil produced 1.03billion tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent in 1994, up from 979 million tons in1990. “That figure represents about three percent of total global emissions,”Science and Technology Minister Eduardo Campos said, adding that theresponsibility of slowing global warming “substantially” falls on richcountries.
“It is now clear that Brazil’s quickest way to reduce its contribution toglobal warming is fundamentally to change the process of occupation and land usein the Amazon,” Greenpeace said in a statement.
Brazil had to produce the inventory as a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol to curbgreenhouse gasses, but as a developing country it does not need to cut emissionsunder the treaty.
Great Tracts Up in Smoke
Still, the report is likely to ratchet up the pressure on Brazilian authoritiesto find ways to curb destruction of the Amazon that has reached alarming newlevels in the past few years. Initial data shows that this year alone, an areathe size of the U.S. state of New Jersey was destroyed.
Environment Minister Marina Silva said Brazil would not “escape from itsresponsibilities” to protect the environment. “The effort by thegovernment to fight deforestation has to be significant to hit illegalactivities,” she said.
Still, environmentalists have criticized the government for doing little toenact a plan to fight deforestation. Greenpeace said the latest deforestationfigures confirmed “the historic inability by government to stopdeforestation.”
“This is the most serious ever,” said David Cleary, head of the Amazonprogram of the Nature Conservancy in Brazil.
“We haven’t had three consecutive years of this level of deforestationsince the middle of the 1980s, and even then it was slightly lower and that wasat the height of the bad old days of Amazon destruction.”
The fact that Amazon burning is also responsible for most of Brazil’s greenhousegas emissions is likely to accelerate calls for measures to reduce destructionof the forests.
In Brazil, pollution from industry is relatively low because of the country’swide-scale use of clean hydro-electric power. In some parts of the Amazon duringthe burning season, however, thick smoke hangs on the horizon.
Brazil has long argued that rich, developed countries need to make the greatestsacrifice to cut greenhouse gas emissions, as rich nations started the processof polluting years ago with the industrial revolution.
The United States has not signed the Kyoto Protocol, saying that big, developingcountries like China, India and Brazil need to assume commitments to cutpollution as well.
United Nations climate change talks are taking place in Buenos Aires this weekwhere Brazil will present its inventory of greenhouse gas emissions.