United Kingdom/Brazil — The UK has announced £10 million to tackle deforestation in Brazil in a bid to protect wildlife and reduce carbon emissions which fuel climate change.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said the money would help farmers in Cerrado, central Brazil, restore natural habitats, reduce forest fires and ease the pressure for more deforestation to provide land for agriculture.
Speaking at the International Forest Day conference in Durban, South Africa, where the latest round of UN climate talks are being held, Mrs Spelman said: “The Cerrado is rich in biodiversity and yet, alarmingly, it has almost halved in size, because of wild fires and the demand for agricultural products.
“If we’re going to stop the loss of biodiversity, we need to protect our forests – which house the majority of the world’s wildlife.
And she said: “We won’t succeed in tackling climate change unless we deal with deforestation.”
But the move comes as environmental groups warn changes to Brazil’s laws on protecting its forests, being voted on this week, will weaken them and make it hard for the country to meet its pledges to reduce carbon emissions.
It will also undermine international efforts to reduce greenhouse gases from deforestation which are being discussed at the current UN talks, they warn.
According to wildlife charity WWF, the changes to the Forest Code laws, which looks set to be approved by Brazil’s senate this week, will provide an amnesty for illegal deforestation which occurred by 2008, stop illegally deforested areas being fully restored and allow non-native species to be planted.
WWF says Brazilian government data shows that 79 million hectares of forest in Brazil – an area the size of the UK and France combine – could be left unprotected and 29 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide could be released into the atmosphere or not captured in restored forests as a result of the changes.
Carlos Rittl, climate change and energy programme coordinator at WWF-Brazil said: “Brazil could go from being a global leader in reducing deforestation to potentially shooting up the list of the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters.”