Brazil announced plans to expand protection of the Amazon rain forest, as cabinet ministers from more than 90 nations arrived in Curitiba for a United Nations sponsored environmental conference.
Brazil’s Environment Ministry said late Sunday, March 26, it would declare 210,000 square kilometers of the rain forest a protected area in the next three years in a campaign to slow destruction of the world’s largest remaining wilderness.
The project is part of the Amazon Protected Areas Program, which has banned development in some regions and created sustainable development zones in others to preserve the Amazon region, which covers 4.1 million square kilometers in Brazil and extends into Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela.
During three days of high-level talks at the eighth biannual Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity, cabinet ministers face a major test of their commitment to provisions of the 1993 treaty as well as their support for the Global Fund for the Environment.
"In a sense we are at a crossroads," said Marcelo Furtado of the environmental group Greenpeace. "If concrete measures don’t emerge from this conference, the convention could lose its credibility.
"If that happens, pressing environmental issues could end up being dealt with at other forums like the World Trade Organization, where economic considerations take greater priority."
Organizers said 93 government ministers were expected to participate in the conference, which began last Monday, March 19, in Curitiba, 650 kilometers southwest of Rio de Janeiro, and runs until Friday.
The Convention on Biological Diversity arose from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where more than 100 world leaders recognized that the world’s environment was in danger and pledged to take steps to protect it. This biannual event is aimed at reviewing progress made toward goals set out at the Earth Summit.
"The (ministers’) meeting is strategically placed during the second week. That way the high-level meetings can address the most controversial issues of the past week that have been ironed out by their delegations," said Brazil’s Environment Minister Marina Silva, who is presiding over the conference.
"It’s a key political moment when the leaders of the global agenda commit themselves to work toward the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity," Silva said.
The outlook for the planet’s biological diversity is not good, according to U.N. and environmentalists. At the conference’s opening, a United Nations report concluded that species were being lost at the fastest rate since the disappearance of dinosaurs — or as much as 1,000 times faster than the natural rate of extinction.
Greenpeace released maps last weeks showing that less than 10% of the world’s forests remained intact, and environmentalists said governments worldwide have failed to honor their commitments to the Global Fund for the Environment, another product of the Earth Summit, leaving the fund with only US$ 10 billion , US$ 67 billion less than promised.
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