BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s Environment Minister Carlos Minc said on Wednesday that U.S. targets for greenhouse gas emissions are unacceptably weak and that Brazil will place new restrictions on its huge farm sector to cut deforestation.
Brazil would also soon announce targets to substantially curb carbon emissions before a crucial global climate summit in Copenhagen in December, he said in an interview as part of the Reuters’ Climate Change and Alternative Energy Summit.
Criticizing the U.S. administration’s stated target of returning to its 1990 level of emissions by 2020, Minc said: “We don’t accept that, it’s very poor.”
“They have to come closer to something beyond a 20 percent reduction,” he said.
The South American nation is expected to play a key role in negotiations at the Copenhagen summit that will seek to frame a new international treaty on climate change. The United Nations climate talks aim to reach agreement on a post-Kyoto pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are blamed for global warming.
Minc said he was moderately optimistic but that a deal would not be easy.
“People are keeping cards up their sleeves but this is not a poker game. We’re discussing the (future) of the planet,” he said, after meeting with the environment minister of Denmark, the summit host.
Minc urged developing countries to announce aggressive targets and rich countries to boost their financing for the global fight against climate change.
“Today, developing countries account for nearly half the emissions, so you can’t only look at historic responsibility (of rich countries),” he said.
In an about-face from years of opposing targets, Brazil last year presented a plan to slash Amazon deforestation in half over 10 years and thereby avoid the release of 4.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
To reinforce Brazil’s ambitions as a leader on global environmental issues, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva would attend the Copenhagen summit, Minc said.
Brazil will announce on September 17 new restrictions on sugar cane planting and ban new cane mills in the Amazon rain forest and the Pantanal wetland area in the country’s west, Minc said.
“There won’t be any new mills or ... expansion of production in native forests,” Minc said.
The farm lobby and the agriculture ministry had been pushing hard to allow cane production in the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland.
The government on Thursday will also place new restrictions on agriculture in its vast central savannah region, where figures show farming and settlements destroyed a 120,000 square km (46,300 sq mile) area in the past six years, Minc said.
“We’ll impose the same restrictions we did in the Amazon,” he said, referring to bans on selling farm products from illegally deforested areas.
“They will in part force the agricultural businesses to change their behavior,” said Minc, a co-founder of the Green Party in Brazil.
The savannah area is rich in biodiversity and helps protect some of the country’s largest fresh-water reserves. Since the 1970s it has been the main area of expansion for Brazil’s agriculture sector, one of the world’s largest.
Editing by Stuart Grudgings and Chris Wilson