Brazil’s Lula: “Gringos” Should Pay to Prevent Amazon Deforestation

At a conference on 26 November, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called on rich, developed nations to pay Latin American countries not to cut down the Amazon rain forest. “I don’t want any gringo asking us to let an Amazon resident die of hunger under a tree,” Lula said. “We want to preserve, but they will have to pay the price for this preservation because we never destroyed our forest like they mowed theirs down a century ago.” Norway has committed to paying Brazil US$1 billion to prevent deforestation. Other nations including Japan, Germany, South Korea, Sweden and Switzerland are reported to be considering a contribution to the fund.

Do rich nations have a responsibility to contribute?

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15 Responses to “Brazil’s Lula: “Gringos” Should Pay to Prevent Amazon Deforestation”


  1. 1 Antonie Cheung 30/11/2009 at 6:05 pm

    In my opinion, I think it is appropriate to say that the “gringos” (foreigners, westerners) have the responsibility to contribute economically to the preservation of deforestation in Amazon regions.
    If we look at the statistic of the causes of deforestation in the Amazon, then what the Brazil’s President said “….rich Western nations have caused much more past environmental destruction than the loggers and farmers who cut and burn trees in the world’s largest tropical rain forest.” may sound right.

    According to data until 2005 by mongabay.com, cattle ranches is by far the biggest reason which has contributed to a large portion of around 70%; the next factor is farming, which in most cases Soybean, is responsible for about 20 % of total Amazon rainforest deforestation . People often mistake logging as the biggest cause of deforestation but this is far from truth. In reality logging is causing only 3-4 % of total deforestation. And of course the Brazilian themselves do not own those cattle ranches instead apparently most of them are owned by foreign investors, to name a few, McDonald, Burger King, suppliers of Wal-Mart, etc.

    I guess we don’t have to doubt about the positive impact of slowing down the deforestation on global warming and the urge of doing so. And as global warming is not a problem only threatening a single country, I do not believe the Amazon countries themselves are the only parties who are responsible for the preservation. And to be precise, the Amazon countries are not the main or solo “consumers” of the forest. Under globalization, most people from developed countries, or even developing countries like China, have inevitably become consumers of those forest products. In shorts, we all have the obligation to pay the price to stop deforestation but not to overlook the importance for the Brazilian government to apply an effective legal system in this aspect.

    I guess we don’t have to doubt about the positive impact of slowing down the deforestation on global warming and the urge of doing so. And as global warming is not a problem only threatening a single country, I do not believe the Amazon countries themselves are the only parties who are responsible for the preservation. And to be precise, the Amazon countries are not the main or solo “consumers” of the forest. Under globalization, most people from developed countries, or even developing countries like China, have inevitably become consumers of those forest products. In shorts, we all have the obligation to pay the price to stop deforestation but not to overlook the importance for the Brazilian government to apply an effective legal system in this aspect.

  2. 2 Cheong Man Lei, Lillian 30/11/2009 at 9:14 pm

    I think President Lula is absolutely right in the sense that developed countries should not only cover initiatives to reduce their emissions, but they should also be responsible for all the other harm they have inflicted on the planet. This is not much related the conventional argument of “common but differentiated responsibility”. What prompts the Gringo to pay comes from the fact that they are the major destroyers of the rainforests.

    Given the Brazilian Amazon as the world’s biggest natural defense against global warming, none of us can pay the cost for losing it. Unfortunately, the positive role of Amazon Basin by acting as an absorber of carbon dioxide is seriously challenged by deforestation, and it now degrades to be a big contributor to global warming with about 75 percent of Brazil’s emissions comes from rainforest clearing. We must endeavor to protect the rainforests and the supply of more adaption fund to Brazil is therefore desired. The fund is helpful in protecting the natural reserves by effectively persuading loggers and farmers to stop destroying trees, etc. Also, the fund can be used to finance scientific and technological projects so that the Amazon resources can be used in a more sustainable and profitable way.

    Yet, in term of sustainability, apart from investing in science and technology, it is also very important to invest in education. One of the reasons causing grave deforestation in Brazil is that most of the people there have no access to good education. While they have no other ways to earn a living, deforesting will be continued. Both short-term and long-term measures are needed. Funds from developed countries are needed. Collective efforts are needed.

  3. 3 Tammy Tsang 30/11/2009 at 11:36 pm

    I do agree that rich nations have a responsibility to contribute. As I see it, preserving forests which would absorb carbon dioxide is as important as cutting down carbon dioxide emission. Both ways can help reduce the rate of global warming and all nations would benefit from it. Therefore just as rich nations have the responsibility to cut down their carbon dioxide emission, they should also have the responsibility to contribute in preserving the Amazon forest.

    However I am uncertain as to the effectiveness of payments developed nations are making to preserve the forest. In the article, it is said that the payments would be used “to persuade loggers and farmers to stop destroying trees and to finance scientific and technological projects”. I do not know what kind of technological invention can be supported by the payments so I can’t comment on that, but I doubt the usefulness of paying to persuade loggers and farmers to stop deforestation.

    Assuming the payments are made to help local people finding other ways of living instead of supporting their living directly, this may be able to drive some of the existing loggers away from exploiting the forest. However the decrease of loggers would only be temporary, because as long as there is a market and demand for woods, there will always be people who become loggers and replace those who have changed business. Therefore unless the Brazil government imposes some restrictions on logging internally, such as imposing tax or setting up quota for those who log, it is difficult to deter people from logging simply by driving the existing loggers away.

    However one should also consider the consequence of imposing restrictions on logging. Such restrictions would drive down the supply and cause the price of woods in Amazon forest to increase internationally. In addition, it may be more difficult for the Brazil government to pay off its national debts to its debtors as selling logs to those countries is one of the major ways for it to pay back its debts.

  4. 4 Chan Pui Ki, Kiki 01/12/2009 at 7:16 pm

    Developed countries have a responsibility to contribute. However, both developed and developing countries should be involved in protecting tropical rainforests.

    Concerning developing countries, economic development is as vital as environmental protection, thus sustainable development is the key. Selling the forests to multinational corporations (MNCs) may be the best available means to make a living. Local people should be educated to protect their forests, but more urgently, they should be informed of how retaining the forest is a better alternative than deforesting. Specifically, tangible benefits should be guaranteed. For example, through the Forest Investment Program, contributor countries fund developing countries to manage their forests to combat climate change. The Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Dedicated Initiative involves local people in the arrangement which is essential for sustained efforts (http://beta.worldbank.org/climatechange/node/4964).

    As for developed countries, incentives should also be offered. Though developed countries and MNCs are the major culprits of extensive deforestation worldwide, they are not necessarily motivated to protest the forests. Despite repeated calls from non-governmental organizations, deforestation is still prevalent. Rather than relying solely on moral obligation of developed countries and corporate social responsibility of MNCs, a more systematic mechanism for forest financing should be in place. Investment in tropical rainforests worldwide is then accompanied by tangible benefits. For example, the carbon emissions of the investors can be offset. Alternatively, the Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol can be revised in future negotiation to incorporate forest conservation and avoided deforestation.

    To protect tropical rainforests in the increasingly warming world, any deals need to consider the interests of both developed and developing countries in order to be effective.

  5. 5 Chow Chung Kiu Jocelyn 02/12/2009 at 1:40 am

    In view of how most deforestation activities are pursued via unfair trade agreements in the past decades, I think President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s assumption that developed countries’ are obliged to bear certain responsibilities to help save the forests is obviously not disputable.

    However,as to the assumption that asking developed countries to contribute to the fund will help “save the forest” – President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva may have to be careful about this. Yes – the fund, as suggested above, may be utilized to establish frontline “preservation teams’, but it will be more about minimizing harm done by deforestation rather than cutting deforestation rates. And yes- it may also be used to empower locals with other ways to make a living, but empirical evidence shows that it is indeed a false presumption that “deforestation” can be eradicated by “eradicating poverty” – the trade is indeed driving by the government who forms trade agreements with MNCs, and is not subject to the control of the locals as all. Can the funds be used to clear the countries’ national debts as to decrease their vulnerability to unfair trade agreements? Yes – but it is very unlikely that such will suffice to achieve such effect given that the countries are in much more inferior a position in international trade. AND finally, yes- We agree that local legislation may help regulate deforestation activities, but as long as the demand for timber remains strong, the trade will go on – the legislation, at maximum, may only propel SOME traders to comply with the quota requirements, and many other to continue the trade underground for the sake of economic benefits, similar to how crimes like drug-trafficking/ sex-trafficking have perpetuated: because the demand still exists.

    Thus, whilst the fund will in essence be “compensations for Amazonz countries” rather than what can “save the forests”, it seems that the ultimate key methods are to (i) increase the price of timber to propel consumers to correct over-consumption habits, and (ii) develop alternatives to forest-products. As the price of timber is increased significantly, consumers will also automatically switch to using alternative products instead. Anyhow, such strategy will not succeed unless ALL timber-supplying countries adopt the same pricing arrangement. AND perhaps for this – it’s time to rely on the WTO.

    At this point, some of us may also wonder then- isn’t it more effective if the developed countries channel its money to developing alternative products then? Well, it is always preferable to have money channeled to BOTH resource bank (i.e. the fund President Lulu is advocating, and the research bank for alternative products/materials) – but if the amount of resources developed countries are willing to donate is extremely limited, I think it is indeed more cost-effective to invest in the later instead.

  6. 6 Amy Lam Ka Man 02/12/2009 at 1:27 pm

    This is an interesting news and an important step in stopping deforestation. It is a good idea to ask other countries to pay to stop deforestation. Although the amazon rainforest is located in Brazil, but every nation on earth share the vast amount of oxygen generated by the rainforest. It is not only a national property, but a global property. So the responsibility of rainforest preservation should be shared globally as well. It is not fair that other countries urge Brazil to stop deforestation and let Brazil bear all the economic loss, while other countries can enjoy a freeride of better atmosphere. And the past urges just don’t work, because Brazil has to look after her citizen’s interest–deforestation brings huge income. I mean, it is unfair to ask a country to stop development and let the people starve, without giving it any compensation. Only Oral praises cannot fill people’s stomache.
    Like carbon trading, this payment is a great realistic incentive to countries that are polluting/destroying the global environment. In economics, there is a famous question about external cost and property right. A factory on the upper stream pollutes a river, and the fisherman in the lower stream has fishery loss. The question is, should the factory pay the fisherman for the right to pollute, or should the fisherman pay the factory for the right to have good fisheries. It does not matter which party pay, because the result is the same–the pollution level will be reduced at the same rate no matter who pays. But if no party is willing to negotiate,pollution will continue. This realistic incentive can be extended to solve other globally-shared problems, like ozone depletion, global warming. The benefits are shared, therefore the responsibility are shared.

  7. 7 Chen Chuen Tien Nadine 03/12/2009 at 12:44 am

    I’m afraid I cannot agree with what Amy said about the Brazillian rainforest being “global property”. Nations rightfully own whatever natural resource is in within their national boundaries. Brazillians have every right to cut down their own trees, just like how other developed nations had on their road to industrialization. It is only because developed nations have consumed their trees(and sometimes also other country’s trees) at a rate faster than its rate of regeneration that the Brazillians will have to cut less than they are “entitled” to. THAT is why, in my opinion, the developing nations need to compensate them for the money they could’ve otherwise made from deforestation. It should be noted that a major reason for deforestation in developing countries is to clear land for farming. intensive farming practices causes soil to become infertile quickly so farmers often need to clear trees for another land to move onto. Hence, the fund can be instrumental in covering the costs of soil enrichment and educating farmers on sustainable agriculture practices, and even reforestation. Finally, since we’re on the topic of global warming, this article (http://www.drroyspencer.com/research-articles/global-warming-as-a-natural-response/) by an ex-NASA scientist might be of interest. He contends that we give our increased production of CO2 too much credit for global warming. How should we make sense of this?

  8. 8 Susan Chan (2009932218) 04/12/2009 at 7:22 pm

    Wealthy nations should take responsibility in providing Brazil with financial backing in order to fight deforestation. The people of Brazil would like to preserve their forests. but they are only willing to do so if other countries will pay for the tropical forest preservation. I think it is a good idea to have rich countries invest in emission cuts in the developing world. According to Reuters News, Brazil can earn up to USD $26 billion per year by selling forest carbon credits. This money would be funding emissions reduction and Amazon rainforest protection, as well as improving communities in Brazil. The rich countries would benefit as well, since emission cuts are less pricy than the emissions reduction at home. The tropical forest is defenceless in poor countries, where trees are worthless unless they are harvested for wood or destroyed to create farmland. Since most tropical forests are in poor countries, they are slowly shrinking, wrecking habitats and accounting for a fifth of global greenhouse emissions. By giving monetary value to the trees in tropical forests, rich countries would give the people incentive to save it. This is possibly the best solution, and many countries have began to make efforts towards this system where poor countries could be rewarded for preserving their stock of carbon through their forests. Futhermore, the proceeds for this system would go to the local communities. People in poor countries will not stop logging their forest as long as it is more economic to cut them down than to preserve them. Wealthy nations need to increase their aid to help the poorer countries fight global warming, because as of now, poor countries do not have enough support from wealthy nations.

  9. 9 Kei Kit Lung 05/12/2009 at 12:16 am

    It needs no exaggeration to emphasis the urgency of global warming nowadays. I totally agree with the above comments that developed countries have a role to play in contributing to the relief fund. I do not mean the indigenous people are completely free from responsibility. Indeed, I think the Brazilian government should be blamed for allowing multi-national companies to exploit forest. However, a higher portion of blame should definitely go to the developed countries.

    As a matter fact, the indigenous Amazon people only cut down trees for the practice of shifted cultivation. But it is a kind of sustainable farming, and it brings little harm to the environment. The real culprits of deforestation are the developed countries, which coverts forested land to farmland for commercial framing, plantation, cattle ranching etc. Some cut down trees to build infrastructures, e.g. dam. Others practice illegal logging and export tress logs overseas to build house, furniture etc. It makes perfect sense for the polluters to pay back the harm they have done. However, what concerns me more are whether developed countries will contribute and how the fund should be used.

    I think if only moral ground is used to convince them, some of the developed countries will surely shrink the responsibility due to the lack of incentives and motivation. There may also be a dispute on the proportion of contribution of each country. Therefore, I think others creative methods can be explored to raise fund, say for example, collaboration with foreign countries to conduct research, promote eco-tourism etc. For the utilization of fund, besides those methods mentioned in the article, it can also be spent in other fields, e.g. to enhance surveillance and legal enforcement, to reforest, to designate a reserve park etc. One should also note that the fund may be abused by corrupted officials. Obviously, some methods should be in place to prevent this from happening.

  10. 10 Chan Horace Ho Laam 06/12/2009 at 10:35 pm

    Brazil’s case is typical of most developing countries, that is they are under pressure from both sides – the ‘Gringos’/developed countries who calls on them to take a stronger role enforcing environmental policy, and their own people, many of whom are still reliant on natural resources for a living. This has certainly put many statesmen of such countries in great difficulties.

    I think Silva is justified in asking the ‘Gringos’ to pay to prevent Amazon deforestation. The financial transaction tax/fund he proposed is interesting, and a quick search on the Internet seem to suggest it being a major agenda to be discussed in Copenhagen (the REDD carbon trading initiative, it is known). However, there is a question of how the developing countries will use the money compensated by the ‘Gringos’. Preferably, the money can be used for tackling illegal deforestation or conservation purposes, but it might be even better if they are used to create alternate job opportunities, so less people will be heavily reliant on forest resources. Brazil has a pretty good track record in environmental issues ranging from deforestation prevention to biofuel developments to urban planning, but I am less confident of how other developing countries will use such large sums of money, the reason being is due to corruption present in many of those governments.

    The report also mentioned the lack of support/enthusiasm by other south american countries. This is really unfortunate. Perhaps economical factors explain some of these nations’ rationale, but such a case speaks volume of how difficult it is to reach a fruitful discussion, let alone a consensus over climate change. Hopefully something solid will come out good from Copenhagen.

  11. 11 Johannes Feldhege 08/12/2009 at 12:07 am

    I agree with President Lula that someone should pay to prevent deforestation. However, I do not agree that developed countries should have to pay for this. Rather it should be the multi-national companies that operate in these countries. A lot of the damage is caused by them, be it that they operate farms to produce meat or soy, which apparently contribute 75% to deforestation as mentioned above, or be it that they do the actual logging. The very nature of their existence, being multinational that is, spreads the blame not only on their country of origin, but others where they have operations as well. And Lula is playing the blame game, when he points out that the gringos should pay for it. I disagree with him that the gringo governments should contribute to preservation. It should rather be the gringo companies that literally use up the fertile land until the soil becomes infertile only to move on to the next spot. In most cases, they do not even produce for the local market. Meat production goes to Western markets, whereas soy is used to feed animal for more meat production. Lula should rather think of a tax on multi-national companies operating in Brazil and taking advantage of the land instead of asking other countries. But I am guessing that for economic reasons, this is not possible as all investors would be driven out of the country by the new tax. Asking the developed countries seems like the only possible solution.

  12. 12 Wong Ching Hung 08/12/2009 at 7:20 pm

    I agree with some of the people above that the developed countries, which have comparatively more financial resources should help contribute to the conservation of the rain forest. On the theoretical aspect, as suggested by Thomas Pogge the German philosopher,the global rich have a stringent duty of justice to take decisive steps toward the eradication of global poverty primarily because of their exploitations on the poorer countries before. On the practical aspect, it will be faster for the richer countries to help the poorer countries than waiting for the latter to solve the problems. Moreover, the disappearance of the rain forest is not a local concern for it has significant influences on slowing down the effects of global warming that affect us all.

    However, I also doubt the effectiveness of such funds, are they one-off or long term payment? Sometimes if there are financial subsidies, the developing countries may rely on it and slow down its own development and strategies in dealing with internal problem, just like Africa. Before making a deal on funding Brazil, those countries should reach a consensus with the latter first and seek a mutually agreed direction of the development of the funds.

  13. 13 Marcus Chau Hon Wai 09/12/2009 at 1:23 pm

    In fact, financing farmers to return their farmland to forest is a practice currently taking place. Farmers become foresters, and they are even better-off by protecting the forest. In practical terms, I cannot see a point why the Amazonians should not be paid to do so. When a state own resources, and you are asking the state not to use the resources for a sake of global interest, you still need a very good reason if the country does not have an incentive.

    Now the problem comes to, why shoulde developed country be responsible. I absolutely agree with this idea because the affluent countries have been long using their quota to emit greenhouse gas to develop their economy. Now they should give back such a chance to the developing country. It is not justified to let developing country to bear their own responsibility, where the affluent people still stand back and relax.

    Perharps such scheme can be implement under the framework of clean development mechanism, as to give incentive for the affluent countries to pay for the forests.

  14. 14 Lee Kin Ka Anne 09/12/2009 at 8:11 pm

    Deforestation is a problem that is caused largely by greed and want for property, money and possibly status. There is little economic value in clearing tropical forests, so the cost of stopping it is small.

    Economic analyses have shown conclusively that reducing emissions from deforestation is considerably less expensive than reducing emissions from fossil fuel combustion and other industrial sources.

    Timber from tropical deforestation, and particularly illegal deforestation,undercuts landowners who are managing their forests sustainably. By reducing tropical deforestation, unfair competition will be reduced with ecologically sound forestry, both in the United States and in tropical countries.

    The benefits of tackling deforestation could be profound, but many obstacles still hinder the proposals. A lack of monitoring in developing countries could make it hard to prove trees aren’t being cut down. Companies may also pocket the money from carbon credits, but fail to make the plans sustainable. Local communities may fail to benefit from the influx of capital.

  15. 15 Andrew David Shen 09/12/2009 at 8:32 pm

    President da Silva’s request for “gringos”, as he refers to people from developed countries in the Northern hemisphere, to pay to prevent the deforestation in the Amazon seems to be very extreme at first glance due to the negative connotation the word “gringo” carries, however, looking deeper into the issue, it is quite easy to understand his demands. It is unfair to impose the burden of maintaining the “world’s biggest natural defense against global warming” on the people of the Amazon region without first providing comparable incentive and compensation, especially as the inhabitants of the region depend on the industry to survive.

    Da Silva makes a very valid point in that developed countries all over the world have, in the past, done much to cut down and destroy their own forests, to facilitate their own development and industrialization. For countries that have relied on the same industry to condemn it in another country is almost absurd. These countries in the Amazon, in particular, Brazil, have very real issues of poverty and hunger to deal with and many inhabitants of the Amazon rain forest depend on deforestation to survive and to feed themselves.

    Wealthy, developed countries who have the ability and luxury to worry about their global impact have a responsibility to pay for carrying out their agendas. If they want to stop deforestation in the developing Amazonian region, they have the obligation to compensate the inhabitants for their lost income. Global warming is indeed an important issue to address, but not before hunger and poverty. Furthermore, if Western countries can be so forward as to turn to Brazil to stop global warming, aren’t there more local sources to deal with first such as carbon emissions and air pollution? The fact that Norway has already pledged $1 billion US is evidence that there are nations that find this request to be reasonable. Perhaps more than just demanding it, paying to prevent deforestation will be more effective in actually stopping the practice from happening.


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