By Juliana Tafur, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – The Norwegian Brazilian Chamber of Commerce held a presentation last Wednesday on the US$110 million that Brazil will receive for the Amazon Fund. The funds are part of a Norwegian donation of up to US$1 billion, to be transferred by 2015 to the Brazilian Development Bank, which will manage the project.
Brazil has 30 percent of the world’s remaining rain forests, but lacks the necessary resources to take care of them. Norway, instead, sits atop an immense oil and gas field that has made the country one of the richest in the world. With money to spare and a genuine concern for the environment, this Scandinavian country has decided to take action.
“Norway is concerned about the Amazon because of global warming, as deforestation is responsible for up to 20 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions,” said Inge Nordang, the Minister-Counselor at the Norwegian Embassy in Brasilia. “We want to show that there’s an interest among developed countries to cooperate with the preservation of the Amazon, and not just request it.”
According to the Norwegian Climate and Forest Initiative, rain forests are disappearing at a rate of 13 million hectares a year, equal to 200 square kilometers a day or 36 soccer fields a minute. Logging, mining, oil exploration and land conversion for agricultural purposes are the main drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. Experts say that if these practices continue, damage to ecosystems, economies and societies will be serious and irreversible.
“In Norway we think we have good experience running our forests sustainably. The approach here is a bit different,” Nordang says. The reason is that over 22 million Brazilians live and depend on the Amazon for their livelihoods. Through the Amazon Fund Project, Norway will compensate Brazil for combating harmful uses of the environment while maintaining living forests.
At the meeting it was made clear that Brazil must meet certain prerequisites in order to receive the funds. “We will be measuring the results, and if these results don’t show less deforestation, there will be no money.” Although the Amazon Fund can receive up to US$1 billion, the Minister-Counselor emphasized that “Norway has just committed money for one year and has not yet committed future monies.”
Still, some Norwegians in the audience raised questions about their country’s decision to have no influence on direct project selection. Others wondered whether the money would end up where it should. “Norway accepted the political context of the Brazilian plan because Brazil should be able to take care of it without too much intervention,” said Nordang.
The President of the Norwegian Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, Kjetil Braaten Solbraekke, says this decision highlights an important aspect of the business relationship between the countries: “It shows that the Norwegian government sees Brazilian government and society as trustworthy partners.”
The Amazon Fund is expected to increase Norway’s goodwill towards Brazil. This is important, Solbraekke adds, “because there are 70 Norwegian companies working in Rio de Janeiro’s oil business, and that number is increasing.” Cooperation is also expected between the two countries on forest monitoring initiatives and sustainable development projects.
At the moment, the Amazon Fund is entirely financed by Norway. In appreciation, the Brazilian Development Bank will sponsor musical and cultural events at the Oslo Summer Festival next year. This will increase awareness of Brazil in Norway and it’s also likely to encourage further investments in this growing South American country. One thing is for sure, says Nordang, “Brazil will be on everyone’s lips some time after that.”