Privatize the Amazon rainforest says UK minister
October 1, 2006

At a summit this week in Mexico, David Miliband, Britain's Environment Secretary, will propose a plan to "privatize" the Amazon to allow the world's largest rainforest to be bought by individuals and groups, according to a report in The Telegraph newspaper online.

The scheme, which has been endorsed by Prime Minister Tony Blair, would seek to protect the region's biodiversity while mitigating greenhouse gas emissions to fight global warming.

According to The Telegraph the plan would "involve the creation of an international body to buy the rainforest before setting up a trust to sell trees" and buyers would become "stake-holders" in the rainforest.

Amazon rainforest. Photo by R. Butler

As of Sunday evening, Brazil -- the country that houses the bulk of the Amazon rainforest -- had not issued a statement in response to the proposal. In the past Brazil has objected to plans to turn the Amazon into an "international trust" calling such ideas a threat to its national sovereignty. In the late 1950s, following the internationalization of Antarctica, Brazil became concerned over its tenuous claim to the Amazon, an began taking steps to assert control over the region. To establish a "presence" in the Amazon, and therefore the right to keep it as part of the national territory, the Brazilian government established the Manaus Free Trade Zone -- a sort of tariff-free manufacturing zone -- and aggressively promoted settlement and development in the Amazon, resulting in widespread forest loss, especially in the 1970s and 1980s.

Deforestation in the region continues today: between May 2000 and August 2005, Brazil lost more than 132,000 square kilometers of forest—an area larger than Greece—largely as a result from clearing for cattle pasture and agricultural activities. Slowing this rate of forest loss could have a significant impact on Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions, of which about 75 percent result from deforestation. Globally, deforestation accounts for about 20-25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Tropical forests, like those of the Amazon, have the best potential for mitigating rising concentrations of greenhouse gases since have the greatest capacity to store carbon in their tissues as they grow. Some experts estimate that the massive reforestation efforts could sequester 100-150 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide over the next 50-100 years.

Based on this principle of greenhouse gas sequestration by forests, last year the Coalition for Rainforest Nations -- coalition of tropical developing countries -- announced an initiative to conserve their forests in exchange for funds from wealthy countries. In December 2005 at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Montreal, the U.N. agreed in principal to support the initiative and even the U.S., which initially opposed the proposal, expressed interest.

    DEFORESTATION IN BRAZIL: 60-70 percent of deforestation in the Amazon results from cattle ranches while the rest mostly results from small-scale subsistence agriculture. Despite the widespread press attention, large-scale farming (i.e. soybeans) currently contributes relatively little to total deforestation in the Amazon. Most soybean cultivation takes place outside the rainforest in the neighboring cerrado grassland ecosystem and in areas that have already been cleared. Logging results in forest degradation but rarely direct deforestation. However, studies have showed a close correlation between logging and future clearing for settlement and farming. more >

While the details of Miliband's proposal have been made public yet, it seems likely that Brazil would benefit financially from the scheme. Given the extent of the Amazon, which presently covers around 3 million square kilometers, Brazil could be sitting on a potential carbon goldmine. For comparison, the forests of the Coalition countries -- Bolivia, Central African Republic, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Papua New Guinea -- which combined cover less than two-thirds the extent of Brazil's forests, are worth at least $1.1 trillion for their carbon sequestration alone. Further, forests offer a great deal more value through the other, less measurable services they provide including fisheries protection, biodiversity preservation, erosion and flood control, recreation and tourism value, harvest of renewable products, and water services.

Related articles

Avoided deforestation could help fight third world poverty under global warming pact -- 10/31/2006
Avoided deforestation will be a hot point of discussion at next week's climate meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. Already a coalition of 15 rainforest nations have proposed a plan whereby industrialized nations would pay them to protect their forests to offset greenhouse gas emissionsm. Meanwhile, last month Brazil -- which has the world's largest extent of tropical rainforests and the world's highest rate of forest loss -- said it promote a similar initiative at the talks. At stake: potentially billions of dollars for developing countries. When trees are cut greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere -- roughly 20 percent of annual emissions of such heat-trapping gases result from deforestation and forest degradation. Avoided deforestation is the concept where countries are paid to prevent deforestation that would otherwise occur. Policymakers and environmentalists alike find the idea attractive because it could help fight climate change at a low cost while improving living standards for some of the world's poorest people and preserving biodiversity and other ecosystem services. A number of prominent conservation biologists and development agencies including the World Bank and the U.N. have already endorsed the idea.

Carbon trading could save rainforests
A new rainforest conservation initiative by developing nations offers great promise to help slow tropical deforestation rates says William Laurance, a leading rainforest biologist from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, in an article appearing Friday in New Scientist.

Rainforests worth $1.1 trillion for carbon alone in "Coalition" nations
If a coalition of developing countries has its way, there could soon be new forests sprouting up in tropical regions. The group of ten countries, led by Papua New Guinea, has proposed that wealthy countries pay them to preserve their rainforests. The Coalition for Rainforest Nations argues that all countries should pay for the benefits -- from carbon sequestration to watershed protection -- that tropical rainforests provide.

Another look at global rainforest conservation
With Earth Day approaching it is appropriate to take another look at conservation efforts in the world's tropical rainforests, which today are disappearing from the face of the globe. Despite growing international concern, rainforests continue to be destroyed at a pace exceeding 80,000 acres (32,000 hectares) per day. World rainforest cover now stands at around 2.5 million square miles (6 million square kilometers), an area about the size of the contiguous 48 United States or Australia and representing around 5% of the world's land surface. Much of this remaining area has been impacted by human activities and no longer retains its full original biodiversity.

Scientists endorse radical plan to save rainforests through emissions trading
The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), the world's largest scientific organization devoted to the study and wise use of tropical ecosystems, has formally endorsed a proposal to help save tropical forests through carbon trading.

Brazil's rainforests
Brazil holds about one-third of the world's remaining rainforests, including a majority of the Amazon rainforest. It is also overwhelmingly the most biodiverse country on Earth, with more than 56,000 described species of plants, 1,700 species of birds, 695 amphibians, 578 mammals, and 651 reptiles.

This article used information from The Telegraph newspaper online and quotes extensively from previous news articles.

Recommend this article? Comments?
>Digg this article | >Hugg this article | Contact

News options

October 1, 2006 (October 02, 2006).

Privatize the Amazon rainforest says UK minister.