Brazil Reaches Out to Al Gore for Help With Rain Forest Proposal

Brazil's environment minister met Tuesday with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and urged him to back a Brazilian proposal to help developing countries obtain aid to prevent destruction of their rain forests.

Brazil is proposing the creation of a fund financed by developed nations that would provide financial incentives for developing countries to keep their rain forests standing.

"The ex-vice president of United States was very sympathetic to the Brazilian proposal," Environment Minister Marina Silva told reporters after meeting with Gore in Sao Paulo. "He has a public commitment and is a respected activist around the world for this cause. He should analyze it and possibly become an ally" of the proposal.

CountryWatch: Brazil

Gore, who was in Sao Paulo to promote his book "An Inconvenient Truth," did not speak to reporters following the meeting.

Brazil first proposed the idea in Rome last August at a preparatory meeting for the 12th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Climate Change and said it would make a formal proposal at the conference in Kenya in November.

The idea would be to create a voluntary fund that would reward developing countries for how much they reduce deforestation below traditional levels.

The countries then would get paid on the basis of how many tons of carbon the extra forest left standing was able to remove from the atmosphere. Developing countries are not required to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases under the Kyoto protocols.

If the countries deforested more than the preset limit, that amount would be deducted from future credits.

Silva said Brazil intended to reduce the rate of deforestation in the Amazon rain forest by 11 percent this year, the same percentage reduction the government said it achieved between Aug. 2005 and Aug. 2006, when the Amazon lost 6,450 square miles of forest cover.

The largest area of Amazon forest destroyed in a year was 11,200 square miles in 1995.

Environmentalists say deforestation has slowed largely because farmers are cutting down less forest to plant soybeans. The price of soybeans has declined on the international market and Brazil's currency has strengthened against the dollar, making it much less profitable to cut down the rain forest to plant grain.

Destroying trees through burning contributes to global warming, releasing about 370 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year -- about 5 percent of the world total -- scientists say.

The rain forest covers 60 percent of Brazil. Experts say as much as 20 percent of its 1.6 million square miles already has been destroyed by development, logging and farming.