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Rainforest pact: Brazil and the U.S. agree to cooperate

March 5, 2010 |  1:42 pm

Brazil cow charcoal.72
The United States and Brazil signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to slash greenhouse gas emissions from tropical deforestation, one of the main drivers of global climate change. The deal, signed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Brasilia on Wednesday, marks the first time the two countries have formally agreed to work together on deforestation.

In the past, Brazilian leaders have been wary of foreign interference in the Amazon, Earth's largest tropical forest. But climate scientists are raising loud alarms that the slashing and burning of forests, which cause about 15% of the emissions that are trapping heat in the atmosphere, threatens to dangerously disrupt the world's climate.

Indonesia and Brazil are, respectively, the globe's third and fourth biggest emitters of carbon dioxide, after the U.S. and China, mainly because of how rapidly they are destroying their forests. In Copenhagen in December, a group of nations made progress in negotiating rules for quantifying the carbon saved by avoiding deforestation, so that credits could be used to offset industrial emissions, a program known as "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation" -- or REDD.

But when the Copenhagen negotiations collapsed without a formal treaty, the deforestation agreement was left in limbo. Now the bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and Brazil "shows the world's major nations are moving forward," said Jennifer Havercamp, international climate policy director for the Environmental Defense Fund. "We can really move the ball forward with bilateral efforts like this."

In two articles and an audio/slide show last month, the Los Angeles Times chronicled efforts to save the Amazon forest and described a REDD project sponsored by local leaders outside Manaus that has encouraged river-dwellers to preserve trees around their villages. Read more here, in a report from Taruma Mirim. And in a report from the Juma reserve, learn how U.S. companies are funding REDD projects. Listen to the sounds and see the scenes of the rain forest in Brian Vander Brug's audio slide show here.

--Margot Roosevelt

Photo: In Taruma Mirim, a village outside Manaus, settlers have cleared much of the forest to make charcoal which they sell in bags for cooking. It is one of 2500 settlements built over the last 40 years where the Brazilian government encouraged villagers to clear the forests to plant farms. Credit: Brian Vander Brug/L.A. Times

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