Obama and Lula need to bail out the Amazon

Feature story - 14 March, 2009
Today President Obama will be meeting President Lula of Brazil for the first time and saving the economy will be at the top of their agenda. But they need to add a new item: Saving the Earth. Twenty percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation and scientists have recently discovered that a shocking 85 percent of the Amazon is at risk from climate change.

Saving the Amazon rainforest is vital for protecting the Earth against runaway climate change.

We have sent them both a letter highlighting the dire warning issued this week, by climate scientists meeting in Copenhagen, stating that climate impacts are unfolding with a speed and severity far greater than previously projected.

Top economist and climate change expert Lord Nicholas Stern has justwarned that the economic impact of global warming has been grosslyunderestimated insisting that inactionwill spell disaster. He attacked politicians for failing to acknowledge the severe consequences of insufficient cuts to world carbon emissions.

The US is causing climate change mainly by burning fossil fuels, while Brazil's contribution is mostly due to deforestation. They are two of the world's largest economies and two of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. This means they have a shared responsibility to avert climate catastrophe and a shared opportunity to create a new, more sustainable global economy.

To do so, they can and must work together to eliminate tropical deforestation and the greenhouse emissions it creates. The two countries need to adopt economic revitalisation measures that promote solutions to climate change while replacing fossil fuels and nuclear energy with renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable jobs.

The will is not enough 

In recent months, each country has taken important steps in the right direction, but much more remains to be done.

Under the leadership of President Lula, Brazil recently announced clear national targets to reduce deforestation in the Amazon. In doing so, the Lula administration has committed to confront and dramatically reduce Brazil's largest single threat to the climate. We are calling on President Lula to make this commitment a reality. The need protect the Amazon and fight climate change must remain a top priority.

President Obama has pledged to restore the United States to its historic leadership role in the fight against climate change. He included huge investments in renewable energy and energy conservation in his economic stimulus plan and demonstrated that we can rebuild the global economy with green jobs that benefit both people and the environment.

To have any hope of avoiding truly catastrophic climate change, the nations of the world must act now and they must act together. The window for timely action is small and closing rapidly.

Extract from our letter to Presidents Obama and Lula

He also called for a cap and trade system for carbon dioxide in his 2010 budget, while moving to regulate these emissions under existing US law. Thanks to Obama - unregulated climate changing pollution is coming to an end.

But at the same time Obama suggested near term emissions targets that fall short of what is needed and possible bringing serious concern regarding US leadership on this crucial issue. Obama needs to demonstrate America's commitment to the international process by setting a target for achieving overall US emission reductions of 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

An energy [r]evolution is possible

Our new Energy [R]evolution report shows that the US can reduce its carbon dioxide emissions to at least 12.5 percent below 1990 levels by increasing energy efficiency and reducing its reliance on fossil fuels. Further cuts can be achieved through the phase-out of flourocarbons, changes in domestic agriculture and land use practices, and through international measures.

Brazil and the US need to support an international fund to fight climate change. The US needs to deploy $US 16 billion a year in funding to protect tropical forests worldwide, to support the development of clean energy economies and climate adaptation in developing countries. And Brazil must commit to use these funds to reduce emissions while calling on other rapidly industrialising countries to do the same.

Come to Copenhagen

Finally, we are insisting both presidents attend the UN climate conference in Copenhagen this December. By doing so, they will demonstrate that they have committed themselves and their nations to achieving an international agreement that meets the challenge of climate change, and send a clear message to the world that there is no time to waste on saving lives, jobs and the planet.

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