Source AP ©

Annual investments to bring destruction of Amazon rain forest to total halt by 2015

Nine prominent environmental groups advised annual investments of 1 billion reals (US$540 million; 378 million EUR) to halt the destruction of the Amazon rain forest by 2015.

Under the proposal, the money would come from within Brazil and abroad and would be used to compensate those who helped halt Amazon deforestation, said Milena del Vale do Rio a spokeswoman for Conservation International in Brazil.

Fires in the Amazon, mostly from agricultural burning, are responsible for about 75 percent of Brazil's carbon dioxide emissions and have helped make the country one of the fourth or fifth largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Worldwide Fund for Wildlife Brazil also helped present the proposal at a gathering in Brasilia, the capital.

"One of the principal challenges that has to be confronted is to guarantee public policy that incorporates an end of deforestation within a social, environmental and economic program," the proposal read. It called on the government to reorient the use of "financial incentives that historically have been funneled into predatory practices."

Environment Minister Maria Silva called the proposal a step in right direction.

"This is just the beginning, but it's a good start, it's something," Silva said.

The proposal also calls for a series of annual deforestation targets, a position Brazil has mostly rejected, fearing that such targets would interfere with the country's sovereignty over the four-fifths of the Amazon that lie within its territory.

The Amazon lost a total of 14,000 square kilometers (5,400 square miles) of forest cover between August 2005 and July 2006, and officials said they expect the rate of deforestation to drop by about a third in the August 2006-July 2007 period, to about 9,600 square kilometers (3,700 square miles).

The Amazon, covers about 4.1 million square kilometers (1.6 million square miles), about 20 percent of which has been cut down.