Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay are working toward a proposal that, by 2020, would completely eliminate deforestation of the Atlantic forest basin. After centuries of agricultural development 93 percent of the forest, which originally covered over 193,000 square miles, has been destroyed. The negotiations follow comments earlier this month from Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, Brazil’s lead climate negotiator, that his country intends to dramatically reduce deforestation in the Amazon rain forest within the same timeframe.
Discussions in Latin America on climate change have blossomed in recent months, in preparation for December’s UN climate change conference in Copenhagen. Rodney Taylor of the World Wildlife Federation has said that a “zero deforestation” goal would require the establishment of strict limits on logging in protected areas, government support for environmentally responsible companies and efforts to educate communities throughout the region.
Despite emitting significantly less carbon than China and the United States, countries like Brazil are major contributors to global warming through deforestation. In nature, trees act as sinks, absorbing carbon and turning it into oxygen. What’s more, when certain trees are cut down, major new emissions are released. Thus, the clearing of forests not only undermines carbon absorption, but also creates new emissions. The clearing of trees is responsible for an estimated 20 percent of global carbon emissions. This has led climate change activists to back plans based on the concept of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation—known by their acronym REDD. Such proposals would cut emissions of carbon dioxide gas in Brazil alone by 4.8 billion tons annually.
Read more on the environment in the most recent issue of Americas Quarterly.