Page last updated at 12:26 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

70% deforestation cuts for Brazil

Rainforest destruction in Brazil
Brazil's disappearing rainforests have long been of concern

Brazil has announced a plan to reduce deforestation rates in the Amazon region by 70% over the next ten years.

The plan follows a call for international funding to prevent further loss of the Amazon rainforest.

This year, the rate of Amazon deforestation increased after falling for the past four years.

The new initiative by the Brazilians came as the UN's latest round of climate talks began in the Polish city of Poznan.

Tasso Azevedo, head of the Brazilian government's forestry service said: "We can now adopt targets because we now have the instruments to implement them."

He was referring to a new Amazon fund, where foreign nations are being encouraged by Brazil to contribute financially to the conservation of the vast Amazon region.

Last month, Norway announced its intention to support the fund, saying it will give $130m (euros 103m; 88m) next year, the first instalment of $1bn to be given over the next seven years.

However Norway will only make each year's donation on the condition that there has been a reduction in deforestation during the previous year.

The 70% figure comes from averaging levels of deforestation in the 10 years up to 2005.

The new plan aims to see a reduction in deforestation of nearly 6,000 per year, or about half the current annual rate of deforestation.

Long-term commitment

A crackdown on illegal settlements and increased policing in the Amazon region came earlier this year, following an estimated 3.8% increase in deforestation compared with the previous year.

Burning of the forests has contributed to increases in global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, but Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc said the initiative showed the country was committed to reducing global emissions.

"Just in terms of avoided deforestation in the Amazon, the plan foresees a reduction of 4.8bn tons of carbon dioxide that won't be emitted up to 2018 - which is more than the reduction efforts fixed by all the rich countries," he said.

But environmental campaigners have said more needs to be done.

"The biggest Brazilian contribution to the fight against climate change is to bring deforestation to an end in the Amazon," said Sergio Leitao, Greenpeace director of public politics in Brazil.

"In adopting timid targets the government is showing that it is going in the right direction, but at the wrong speed, because the problem requires urgent solutions," he told the BBC.

"By connecting the reduction of deforestation to obtaining international resources, in a moment of economic crisis, the government has an argument ready for not achieving targets in the future," Mr Leitao said.

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