Tag Archive: Copenhagen


By Fiona Harvey, Ed Crooks and Andrew Ward in Copenhagen
The Financial Times

The United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen ended in apparent disarray last night with some world leaders hailing a “meaningful agreement”, while others said no deal had been struck.

The US, China, Brazil, India and South Africa claimed, after a four-hour meeting, to have secured a partial pact. But their optimism was quickly undermined by a string of more pessimistic assessments.

Barack Obama, US president, acknowledged that the deal was “not sufficient to combat the threat of climate change but [was] an important first step” on cutting greenhouse gases.

“We have made a meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough. For the first time in history, all of the major economies have come together to take action [on global warming],” he said after a meeting with Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Jacob Zuma, South African president.

No senior UN officials were available to comment on Mr Obama’s announcement.

Mr Obama said further talks were needed to secure a formal treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto accord. “What we have achieved in Copenhagen will not be the end but the beginning of a new era of international action,” he said. “This is going to be hard.”

The agreement contained a commitment to try to hold global warming to no more than 2°C, a level scientists have suggested is probably the limit of safety, beyond which climate change could become catastrophic and irreversible.

Rich countries have also included commitments to cut their emissions and developing countries to curb the growth of theirs. There were also promises to transfer money from rich to poor countries, to help them tackle climate change.

But there was confusion as some countries appeared to be less optimistic than Mr Obama. While he was leaving for the airport, European officials were denying a deal. “If there had been a deal, the prime minister [of Sweden] and the president [of the Commission] would have been here. They still have not formalised the deal,” said Roberta Alenius, spokeswoman for the EU presidency.

Some poorer countries made clear support was far from unanimous. Lumumba Di-Aping, Sudanese head of the G77 group of developing countries, said the US-backed plan represented the “lowest level of ambition” and would be devastating for the world’s poor. “This is an idea not a deal,” he said.

His remarks raised doubts over whether a deal brokered by a small group of big industrialised and emerging economies would win the support needed to turn it into a binding treaty.

One key sticking point was China’s refusal to allow monitoring of its emissions. But in a last-minute compromise, Beijing and Washington agreed to a process of “international consultation and analysis”.

Brazilian representatives said negotiators would continue their work into next year in the hope of having a legally binding document that can be signed by the end of 2010.

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The Copenhagen opening ceremony on Monday as the climate change summit began

By Reuters

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – China led calls by developing nations for deeper emissions cuts from the United States, Japan and Europe at U.N. climate talks on Tuesday, as a study showed that this decade will be the warmest on record.

The first decade of this century was the hottest since records began, the World Meteorological Organisation said, underscoring the threat scientists say the planet faces from rising temperatures.

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries are trying to seal the outlines of a climate pact to combat rising seas, desertification, floods and cyclones that could devastate economies and ruin the livelihoods of millions of people.

Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said the Dec 7-18 talks in Copenhagen were “off to a good start.” The EU said it was positive that no one had walked out of negotiation sessions.

But a rich-poor rift continued to cloud negotiations on finance and emissions cuts. Recession-hit rich countries have not yet made concrete offers to aid developing nations who also want the industrialised world to act faster to curb emissions.

China and many other developing nations urged the rich to make deeper cuts in emissions and Beijing scoffed at a fast-start fund of $10 billion (£6.1 billion) a year meant to help developing countries from 2010 that rich countries are expected to approve.

China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, criticised goals set by the United States, the European Union and Japan for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

Su Wei, a senior Chinese climate official at U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen, said the targets broadly fell short of the emissions cuts recommended by a U.N. panel of scientists. The panel has said cuts of 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 were needed to avoid the worst of global warming.

He said a U.S. offer, equal to 3 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, “cannot be regarded as remarkable or notable.” An EU cut of 20 percent was also not enough and Japan was setting impossible conditions on its offer of a 25 percent cut by 2020.

“LIFE AND DEATH”

“This $10 billion if divided by the world population, it is less than $2 per person,” he said, adding it was not even enough to buy a cup of coffee in Copenhagen or a coffin in poorer parts of the world.

“Climate change is a matter of life and death,” he said.

Brazil’s climate change ambassador said his country did not want to sign up for a long-term goal of halving global emissions by 2050 unless rich nations took on firm shorter-term targets — which the Danish hosts view as a core outcome for the talks.

Copenhagen was meant to seal a legally binding climate deal to broaden the fight against climate change by expanding or replacing the Kyoto Protocol from 2013.

While that now looks out of reach, host Denmark wants leaders to at least agree on a “politically binding” deal. The Danish government has said this would be 5 to 8 pages with annexes from all countries describing pledged actions.

Negotiators are also trying to whittle down almost 200 pages of draft text that is expected to form the basis of an eventual post-2012 climate treaty. While negotiators have made progress refining the text, it is still full of blanks and options.

African civil groups led a protest inside the main conference centre in Copenhagen, urging more aid to prepare for global warming. “Africans are suffering. We will not die in silence,” said Augustine Njamnshi of Christian Aid.

“PLEASING THE RICH”

A draft 9-page Danish text with annexes seen by Reuters last week drew criticism by environmental activists, who said it undermined the negotiations.

“Focus on the Danish text right now is a distraction from the negotiations,” said Kim Carstensen, head of conservation group WWF’s global climate initiative, adding the text did not lay out what would happen to the Kyoto Protocol.

He called the Danish text a weak attempt to accommodate the United States. De Boer described the text as an informal paper for the purposes of consultation and not an official part of the negotiations.

Much is riding on what U.S. President Barack Obama can bring to the table in Copenhagen when he joins more than 100 other world leaders during a high-level summit on Dec 17-18.

Washington’s provisional offer is to cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, or 3 percent below the U.N.’s 1990 baseline.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruled on Monday that greenhouse gases endanger human health, allowing it to regulate them without legislation from the Senate, where a bill to cut U.S. emissions by 2020 is stalled.

Delegates cautiously welcomed the step as a boost for Obama.

(Additional reporting by Gerard Wynn, Alister Doyle, Richard Cowan and John Acher in Copenhagen; Writing by David Fogarty; Editing by Noah Barkin)

Countdown to Copenhagen, Parque do Ibirapuera, São Paulo, Brazil

By TOM ZELLER Jr. – The New York Times

With the scientific consensus more or less settled that human activity — the burning of fossil fuels, torching of forests, and so forth — is contributing to a warmer and less hospitable planet, one might reasonably ask, why is it so hard to agree on a plan to curb those activities?

The answer lies with the many fault lines that cut through the debate over climate change. Those deep divisions will be on display beginning this week as representatives of 192 nations gather in Copenhagen for a United Nations conference on the issue.

Organizers had hoped to emerge with an international compact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help countries most threatened by rising sea waters and temperatures. But the divisions between nations are such that world leaders agreed last month to put off resolving the most contentious issues until next year. They will try instead to reach a nonbinding interim agreement in Copenhagen, then work toward a binding treaty in 2010.

Just what will happen, of course, remains to be seen. Here’s a primer on some of the major themes and fissures:

RICH NATIONS VS. POOR NATIONS

Who should pay whom for what — and how much?

The Bolivias and Chads and Mauritanias of the world argue that they are more vulnerable to changes in temperature, and have little or no resources to adapt to changes in the growing seasons or increased rainfall or — worst case — to relocate large numbers of people.

They want the rich world to commit to far deeper emissions cuts than they already have, and to provide them with cash and technology so they can prepare for the worst and develop a clean energy infrastructure for themselves.

The rich world, meanwhile, is busy trying to figure out just how to calculate the cost of all this (estimates run into the trillions of dollars), and how to divvy up the bill.

DEVELOPED VS. DEVELOPING ECONOMIES

This is where postindustrial economies like the United States and Europe, which became prosperous by burning carbon-dioxide-spewing fossil fuels, face off against industrializing economies like China, Brazil and India, which resent pressure to decarbonize their energy systems now that they are growing.

The standoff between China and the United States underscores the issues. The global trade rivals were reluctant to commit to emissions targets until each had an idea of what the other planned. The two countries together are responsible for 40 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. But all players have been eyeing each other warily.

In recent weeks, bidding has begun, with Brazil, then the United States, followed by China and, last week, India, offering up individual emissions goals. But they have used different baselines against which to measure their reductions, making it difficult to determine whether there is parity.

ISLAND AND COASTAL NATIONS VS. THE CLOCK

In mid-October, ministers of the government of the Maldives, a low-lying island nation in the Indian Ocean, donned scuba gear and held a 30-minute cabinet meeting underwater off the coast of the capital, Malé.

The stunt was designed to highlight the nation’s plight — and that of three-dozen or so other small island and coastal countries — should global warming raise sea levels in the coming decades. Even a modest increase could leave a number of low-lying nations uninhabitable.

As a bloc, these countries have been lobbying for an international agreement to keep average temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius — or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. They also want global emissions scaled back by as much as 85 percent by midcentury.

The bloc, which includes a wide range of economies, from relatively well-to-do Singapore to strugglers like Haiti, wins points for being at the front lines of a planetary problem, but its political clout at the negotiating table is uncertain.

EUROPE VS. EUROPE

Even though the European Union has been at the vanguard of renewable energy development and emissions reduction through its carbon trading scheme, it is struggling internally over each nation’s carbon quotas, assistance to developing countries and fidelity to the emissions reductions agreed to in 1997 under the Kyoto Protocol.

While Europe as a whole is on track to meet its goal of an 8 percent reduction over 1990 emissions levels by 2012, not every country has pulled its weight. Nations unlikely to meet their individual Kyoto targets include Italy, Spain and, yes, Denmark, host of the Copenhagen talks.

Poland and Estonia, meanwhile, have been bickering with the European Commission over the amount of carbon dioxide the two countries should be allowed to emit. Both rely heavily on coal for electricity.

Oil-producing nations are worried about the impact of a global climate deal, and they have increasingly argued that any agreement that would reduce reliance on fossil fuels should include compensation for their lost revenues.

Saudi Arabia has spearheaded this argument, and while environmental groups and other stakeholders have dismissed the notion as a stunt, oil producers are not without the ability to muddle negotiations if push comes to shove.

Meanwhile, developers of wind, solar and other renewable technologies anticipate a windfall if the community of nations — including mega-polluters like the United States — agree to a binding climate treaty. So, too, do global banks, which would presumably do handsomely through an expanded carbon trading market.

Lobbyists from all sides will be wining and dining delegates over the next two weeks.

CARBON TAXERS VS. CARBON TRADERS

Many experts argue that the only way to tackle climate change is to put a price on carbon. Some say the best way to do that is to create a cap-and-trade system, in which industries are issued permits to emit carbon dioxide up to a certain level, or cap. Companies that emit below the cap can then sell their permits on a carbon market, where companies exceeding the cap will, presumably, buy them so they can continue to pollute. The total number of permits would not exceed an overall emissions target.

Europe has had an emissions trading scheme since 2005. Some critics argue, however, that such systems are unnecessarily complicated and prone to manipulation. A simpler solution would be a tax on carbon, they say.

But with a cap-and-trade scheme forming the bedrock of negotiations in Copenhagen, and among legislators in Congress seeking to pass national climate legislation, the carbon-tax camp has been increasingly marginalized.

EMERGENCY VS. WE’LL FIGURE IT OUT

The idea that human beings are nudging the planet’s thermostat upward is widely accepted among climatologists. But just how rapidly things are changing, to what extent and where — and at what threshold, if any, should we abandon all hope — are far less settled questions.

In 2008, the NASA scientist and global warming guru James Hansen identified 350 parts per million as the upper limit for safe atmospheric carbon concentration. Current levels are approaching 390 parts per million.

Others argue that there is no reason for panic — nor for what they say is an economy-crushing global climate treaty. They are putting their faith in human ingenuity, arguing that planetary-scale engineering projects like blasting seawater into the atmosphere to increase the heat reflectivity of certain clouds (yes, that’s a real idea), will eventually solve the problem.

By Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post Staff Writer

By offering concrete emission targets last week, the United States and China have resuscitated global climate talks that were headed toward an impasse. But the details that have yet to be resolved — including the money that industrialized countries would offer poorer ones as part of an agreement — suggest a political deal remains a heavy lift for the 192 countries set to convene in Copenhagen in little more than a week.

Negotiators aim to produce a blueprint for a legally binding international treaty that would replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012 and govern individual countries’ greenhouse gas emissions.

Although the proposals from the world’s two biggest greenhouse-gas emitters have boosted the prospects for a deal, they demonstrate something else as well: No one wants to shoulder the blame for failure at Copenhagen, even if it means the final outcome falls short of what many had envisioned a year or two ago. The U.S. pledge to cut its emissions by 2020 and China’s offer to lower its carbon dioxide output relative to the size of its economy by the same date are more modest than what their negotiating partners had demanded.

The fact that countries are defining their climate goals in varied ways — including different baseline years and efficiency targets rather than absolute cuts — makes it hard to assess their commitments. The United States has pledged cuts that are modest in the first decade but ambitious 15 and 20 years from now, while China has set a target that could amount to a meaningful reduction if the country’s growth rate slows somewhat.

Keya Chatterjee, the U.S. director for the World Wildlife Fund climate change program, likened the developments to “a phoenix . . . rising from the ashes.” She added that, under a best-case scenario, “It’s not a deal that’s going to solve the problem of climate change a hundred percent. . . . But it is a deal that’s going to create a foundation and an international architecture for resolving this issue over time.”
A senior Obama administration official offered a more cautious assessment: “There’s a very real chance of getting this done, but hurdles remain.”

The biggest remaining obstacle is money, including how much the developed world will give developing nations to cope with the impact of global warming and to acquire technology to curb their emissions. The United States has not said how much it would pay into any global fund, which the Europeans have estimated would require at least $10 billion annually beginning next year.

And on Thursday, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said at a meeting of Amazon nations that wealthier countries must “pay the price” for protecting rain forests that are vulnerable to clear-cutting and burning by farmers and ranchers, activities that help fuel global warming.

Connie Hedegaard, the Danish minister for the climate conference, said “the decision on finance” was the most pressing issue developed countries face.

The Obama administration has allocated about $1.2 billion toward international climate programs as part of its proposed fiscal 2010 budget. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in an interview that it would take at least twice as much to help seal a deal in Copenhagen.

China’s announcement Thursday that it would send Premier Wen Jiabao to the talks and improve its economy’s energy efficiency — by as much as 45 percent by 2020, compared with 2005 levels — makes it easier for other countries to commit to a treaty, but it remains unclear how the outside world would verify these cuts.

“It’s great the Chinese have come forward with a plan, but are they willing to have that part of a binding agreement?” said Stephen Eule, vice president for climate and technology at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Energy Institute.

South Korea’s climate change ambassador, Chung Rae-kwon, whose country just pledged to cut its emissions 4 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Post that China’s proposal was “a great step forward” but added, “The issue now is how this Chinese target can be captured in the agreement to be achieved in Copenhagen.”

Several U.S. senators have said they cannot endorse domestic climate legislation or an international treaty unless it ensures that such economic competitors as China and India will take steps to curb their carbon dioxide output.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in an interview that it was hard to determine whether the Chinese announcement addresses that concern. He added that he would rather have Obama focus on building more nuclear power plants and electrifying the U.S. auto fleet than “making trips to Copenhagen, trying to convince China to make itself poorer when so many people there live on less than a dollar a day.”

Daniel Price, an international economics adviser on the climate talks under former president George W. Bush, said negotiators still must resolve a range of issues, such as protecting the intellectual property rights of technological innovators and ensuring the integrity of any carbon trading scheme created under the pact.

The need for consensus under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which governs the talks, offers further complications. A bloc of African nations agreed this month on their bottom line for any deal but have not disclosed it. Major developing countries such as China, India and Brazil say they, too, will offer a unified position at the negotiations, but they have yet to determine it.
India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, told the Hindustan Times newspaper that China’s announcement was “a wake-up call. . . . We have to think hard about our climate strategy now and look for flexibility.”

Dominick DellaSala, president of the National Center for Conservation Science and Policy, said the emerging compromise could prompt negotiators to “lock in” less ambitious emission targets in the short term.

Even Hedegaard, the Danish minister, noted that the current climate pledges by developing countries amount to an 18 percent reduction below 1990 emission levels by 2020, but the United States is pledging to cut emissions by about 4 percent by then. Europeans and many scientists have called for a 25 to 40 percent cut.
Cutting a political deal now, argued Hedegaard and environmental advocates such as Chatterjee, makes more sense than holding out for a perfect agreement.

“If we don’t resolve it now, it’s not going to get any easier,” Chatterjee said. “Time doesn’t really help resolve issues of equity.”

Associated Press
Speaking before Amazon summit, Lula calls on industrialised countries to provide financial help to halt deforestation.

Brazil’s president said today that “gringos” should pay Amazon nations to prevent deforestation, insisting rich western countries had caused much more environmental destruction than the loggers and farmers who cut and burn trees in the world’s largest tropical rainforest.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was speaking before an Amazon summit at which delegates signed a declaration calling for financial help from the industrialised world to halt deforestation, which contributes to global warming.

“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.”

In Brazil, the word “gringo” generally refers to anyone from the northern hemisphere.

Lula convened the meeting to form a unified position on deforestation and climate change for seven Amazon countries before the Copenhagen climate summit. But the only leaders who attended were Guyana’s Bharrat Jagdeo and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, representing French Guiana, leaving top Lula aides and environmentalists to admit the gathering will have a muted impact.

Other countries sent vice-presidents or ministers, and the presidents of Colombia and Venezuela embarrassed Brazil by cancelling at the last minute.

Sarkozy supported a recent proposal by Lula to create a financial transaction tax that would be used to build a fund to help developing countries protect their forests. Details will be discussed in Copenhagen.

Despite the lacklustre summit showing, Lula aides said it was important to drive home a message that the Amazon is home to 30 million people, most of whom depend on the forest’s natural riches to eke out a living. About 25 million live in Brazil’s portion.

“In Europe everyone has opinions about the Amazon, and there are people who think the Amazon is a zoo where you have to pay to enter,” said Marco Aurelio Garcia, Lula’s top foreign policy adviser. “They don’t know there are 30 million who work there.”

Brazil has managed to reduce Amazon destruction to about 7,000 square kilometres a year, the lowest level in decades. But that is still larger than the US state of Delaware.

The Brazilian Amazon is arguably the world’s biggest natural defence against global warming, acting as an absorber of carbon dioxide. But it is also a big contributor to warming because about 75% of Brazil’s emissions come from rainforest clearing, as vegetation burns and felled trees rot.

Brazil has an incentive to protect the Amazon because the new global climate agreement is expected to reward countries for “avoided deforestation” with cash or credits that can be traded on the global carbon market.

Norway will give Brazil $1bn (£600m) by 2015 to preserve the Amazon rainforest, as long as Latin America’s largest country keeps trying to stop deforestation.

Norway was the first to supply cash to an Amazon preservation fund which Brazilian officials hope will raise $21bn to protect nature reserves, persuade loggers and farmers to stop destroying trees, and finance scientific and technological projects.

Brazilian environment minister Carlos Minc has said Japan, Sweden, Germany, South Korea and Switzerland are considering donating to the fund.

Photo: Elza Fiúza – Agência Brasil

By Juliet Eilperin, from The Washington Post

When international climate negotiators convene next month in Copenhagen, Brazilian politician Marina Silva will serve as the conference’s unofficial philosopher-activist. A native Amazonian who grew up in a community of rubber-tappers, Silva worked with murdered Amazonian activist Chico Mendes, won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 1996 and served as Brazil’s minister of the environment under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from 2002 to 2008. She spoke with Washington Post environment reporter Juliet Eilperin during a recent visit to Washington; Stephan Schwartzman of the Environmental Defense Fund translated from the Portuguese. Excerpts:

What inspired you to do environmental work?

It was a combination of things. First, the sensibility I gained from living with the forest, from being born there and taking my sustenance from it until I was 16 years old. Second was my contact with liberation theology, with people like Chico Mendes, a connection that raised social and political consciousness about the actions of the Amazonian rubber-tappers and Indians who were being driven out of their lands because the old rubber estates were being sold into cattle ranches. These encounters made me become engaged with the struggle in defense of the forest. Later, I discovered that this was about “the environment” and the protection of ecosystems. It was an ethical commitment that these natural resources could not be simply destroyed.

How does your Amazon upbringing affect the way you see the issues at stake?

Without doubt, the experience of living in one of the most biologically and culturally diverse regions of the world has affected how I see the world. I see two time frames: forest time and city time. Forest time is slower; things have to be more fully processed; information takes a long time to get there, so people didn’t have access to new information. When a new idea arrived, you thought about it, elaborated on it, talked about it for a long time. So this way of thinking, reflecting on and developing ideas, helps me have a sense of the preservation of things, to not make rushed decisions.

In your view, how is the international community responding to climate change?

We are already extremely close, in terms of the maximum of what is permissible in emissions. It’s an effort that both developing and developed countries have to make. What has been agreed to so far in the meetings leading up to Copenhagen is not terribly promising. Society has to reflect this kind of urgency to leaders, and leaders need to assume responsibility for taking on the issue, not only in terms of present interests but in terms of future interests.

What they would like to do, or what they would feel comfortable to do with the short-term time horizons of their mandates, is not enough.

To what extent do you think avoided deforestation in places like the Amazon can succeed at curbing global warming, given that deforestation accounts for 15 percent of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions?

For this process to last, to be sustainable over time, we need to change the process of development. It’s not enough to say what people can’t do. You have to tell them what they can do, how they can do it and provide them with the means to do it. In the case of the Amazon, there are 25 million people living there, and they need alternatives. If there are not alternatives, there will once again be tremendous pressure on the forest. What’s needed is a change in the fundamental economics of the Amazon to create sustainable expectations to meet the needs of the people.

How do you view the United States’ current work on climate change?

We’re enthusiastic about what’s going on in the United States, the fact that there’s been a law passed by the House of Representatives. The fact that climate-change legislation is on the agenda of the United States is tremendously important. It’s a huge change, after being absent from the international negotiations for nearly 10 years, that the United States has returned.

For this process to last, to be sustainable over time, we need to change the process of development. It’s not enough to say what people can’t do. You have to tell them what they can do, how they can do it and provide them with the means to do it. In the case of the Amazon, there are 25 million people living there, and they need alternatives. If there are not alternatives, there will once again be tremendous pressure on the forest. What’s needed is a change in the fundamental economics of the Amazon to create sustainable expectations to meet the needs of the people.

How do you view the United States’ current work on climate change?

We’re enthusiastic about what’s going on in the United States, the fact that there’s been a law passed by the House of Representatives. The fact that climate-change legislation is on the agenda of the United States is tremendously important. It’s a huge change, after being absent from the international negotiations for nearly 10 years, that the United States has returned.

I recognize that the United States not having legislation [passed] in the Senate creates a problem. At the same time, the sentiment of the international community is going to demand that these [industrialized] countries take on a long-term target, an 80 percent reduction in emissions by midcentury. It’s important that there’s agreement around a long-term target. President Obama and the Congress are beginning a discussion that should have happened 10 years ago. But the fact that it has begun is very promising.

How optimistic are you that the world’s nations will take on binding commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions?

We already have the greater part of the technical responses that we need to address these problems. What we need to do is to put these technical responses and methods at the service of ethics, and take into consideration the fate of future generations.

Do you still live in the Amazon part of the time?

In my mind, I’m always in the Amazon. I just have a job that requires me to work in Brasilia for a certain time. I’m increasingly called upon to travel to other states in Brazil and outside of Brazil, but my reference point is Amazonia; it’s the locus from which I enter into dialogue with other regions of Brazil and the outside world. I make a point of returning to the Amazon at least once a month.

What was it like working with Chico Mendes? What might he make of Brazil’s and the world’s efforts on the environment today?

I worked and lived with Chico Mendes. It was sharing friendship and apprenticeship. It was principally a political apprenticeship, not in the sense of party politics, but the politics of how to relate to different parts of society, in this case the rubber-tappers. Chico Mendes had an enormous capacity for dialogue — even with those who were against him, who opposed him in the extreme — and to not let himself be intimidated by the seeming impossibility of dialogue. He didn’t allow other people’s indifference to influence him. Even if someone was indifferent to his cause, this didn’t mean he had to be indifferent to them. I learned that first we should count on relationships, on persuasion rather than conflict, on processes of co-authorship.

With regard to the efforts Brazil and the world have made on environmental issues, if Chico were alive he would agree that they are far beyond the times he experienced, when he had to confront the fury of those who wanted to do the same thing in the Amazon as was done in Brazil’s Atlantic forest and other Brazilian biomes. But he would also certainly conclude that these efforts are much less than the planet needs.

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