Page last updated at 23:22 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 00:22 UK

Brazil launches rainforest fund

President Lula (left) greets Environment Minister Carlos Minc at the launch of the fund
The government vowed to reducing rainforest destruction

Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva has launched an international fund to protect the Amazon rainforest and help combat climate change.

The fund will promote alternatives to forest-clearing for people living in the Amazon, and support conservation and sustainable development

Officials will seek donations abroad and aim to raise $21bn (11bn) by 2021.

But a government minister said Brazil would not accept foreign interference in its Amazon policy.

The environmental group Greenpeace said it was the first time Brazil had accepted a link between global warming and preserving the rainforest.

'Sovereignty non-negotiable'

Speaking at the launch in Rio de Janeiro, President Lula said Brazil was aware of how much the Amazon meant to the wider world.

A look at the rainforest Brazil has launched a fund to protect

"It's better for the country's image to do things right, so we can walk in international forums with our heads high," he added.

But the Brazilian leader also insisted that the Amazon's preservation was Brazil's responsibility.

"We... want the sovereignty that we hold over Amazonian territory and the decisions that are made in this region to be respected," he said.

Roberto Mangabeira Unger, minister for strategic affairs, put the point more forcefully:

"The fund is a vehicle by which foreign governments can help support our initiatives without exerting any influence over our national policy.

"We are not going to trade sovereignty for money."

New thinking

The Amazon rainforest
Amazon map
Largest continuous tropical forest
Shared by nine countries
65% Brazilian territory
Covers 6.6m sq km in total
Pop: 30m - 23.5m are in Brazil

Greenpeace in Brazil said that the country was accepting the link between global warming and preserving the forest for the first time.

"For a long time, Brazil was violently opposed to this, insisting fossil fuel was to blame," said Sergio Leitao, director of public policies for Greenpeace Brasil.

"That's true, historically speaking, but today forests play an important role."

Brazilian Environment Minister Carlos Minc called for a radical change in environmental attitudes:

"We are committed to reducing the destruction of the rainforest, to eliminating illegal burning and to guaranteeing a better quality of life for all.

"Our war is not won by simply reducing illegal burning in one month, it will be won once this environmental model that is destroying our communities and biodiversity is history."

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