November 20, 2019 / 4:49 PM / 16 days ago

Brazil seeks more funding to combat environmental destruction

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s plans for environmental protection remain unchanged even as deforestation skyrockets, but Environment Minister Ricardo Salles said on Wednesday the country was looking for more money to implement those plans.

Brazil's Environment Minister Ricardo Salles looks on during a session of the Environment and Sustainable Development Committee of the Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia, Brazil October 9, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Salles largely repeated previously announced plans to bring more development, economic zoning and improved enforcement of environmental laws to the Amazon rainforest region, where deforestation has surged to its highest point in 11 years.

The government will strive to reduce deforestation by the time annual figures are next announced in late 2020, Salles said in a briefing alongside state governors from the Amazon region. He did not give numerical targets or say when the proposed policies would be implemented.

President Jair Bolsonaro, however, cast doubt on Brazil’s commitment to combating deforestation.

“You won’t end deforestation or burning. It’s cultural,” he told reporters earlier on Wednesday, adding that deforestation had been higher under the prior left-wing government in the mid-2000s.

At the news conference, Salles said the country will seek more resources to enact its environmental policies and would ask for additional funding for developing countries at the COP25 United Nations climate meeting in Madrid in December.

Brazil has argued that developed countries, which historically have emitted more greenhouse gases, should take greater responsibility for fighting climate change, including financing efforts to curb emissions and adapt to the effects of global warming.

Under the structure of the Paris Agreement on climate change, developed economies have committed to mobilizing $100 billion annually in financing by 2020 to help developing countries tackle global warming, which Salles said has yet to materialize.

“What is Brazil’s effective share of this $100 billion per year? We will see at this COP in Madrid,” Salles said.

Asked how other nations could be expected to give more money to Brazil when deforestation is rising, Salles countered that the country is still doing well in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Brazil’s climate goals are calculated against a base year of 2005, when the pace of deforestation was much higher.

The environment ministry is also set to receive 230 million reais ($54.82 million) from a fund set up with the proceeds of a corruption settlement made by Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4.SA), Salles said, without saying how that money would be used.

Another 430 million reais from the fund will go to states. Flavio Dino, the governor of Maranhao state, said it would be used to stop environmental crimes and to “regularize” occupied land that exists in legal gray areas.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle, Lisandra Paraguassu and Jake Spring; editing by Diane Craft, Marguerita Choy and Bill Berkrot

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