Brazil welcomes foreign money for Amazon

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s environment minister on Wednesday fought off charges that a new international Amazon conservation fund set to receive a large contribution from Norway could threaten the nation’s sovereignty.

Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc indicates on a map while speaking during a news conference to announce the creation of a program to recover areas of the Amazon forest, in Brasilia June 2, 2008. REUTERS/Roberto Jayme

Nationalist politicians and media have warned that foreigners donating to the Amazon Fund, which Brazil unveiled last month, might try to impose their own agenda on Latin America’s largest country.

“Not all donors think of themselves first,” Environment Minister Carlos Minc told a seminar on public policies in the Amazon sponsored by the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

Norway is set to make a $100 million donation next week during a visit to Brazil by Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, an environment ministry spokesman said.

“If they want to donate because they’re being flooded, let them do so,” Minc said in reference to the threat of flooding some countries face due to global warming.

Deforestation accounts for 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from human sources, according to U.N. data. Warming can stoke droughts, heat waves, more powerful storms and rising seas.

Asked whether the growing presence of foreign farmers and nongovernmental groups in the region was reason for concern, Minc responded: “Today, those who destroy the Amazon are Brazilians.”

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The Amazon Fund will support forest conservation, scientific research and sustainable development projects such as rubber tapping, forestry management and the creation of drugs from plants.

Brazil’s national development bank BNDES will manage the fund, Minc said. The government hopes to raise $1 billion within a year and as much as $21 billion by 2021, the bank said last month.

Some potential donor governments have said they would have too little say in the management of the fund, which is open to companies, countries and nongovernmental organizations.

The government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has increased police raids on illegal loggers and expanded protected areas.

But it is also building roads and hydroelectric plants that conservationists fear could increase deforestation in the long term.

Reporting by Raymond Colitt; Editing by Xavier Briand