By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – On Tuesday the United Nations hosted in New York what is being called one of the largest summits on climate change, with leaders from around the world expected to agree to actions to limit climate change. The Brazilian government’s actions to protect the Amazon region were at the forefront of many of the discussions, and President Dilma Rousseff said her government’s investments are producing results.
According to data from the Brazilian Ministry of Environment, in 2013 the government invested more than R$400 million in the development of projects to help mitigate the influences of climate change. “In the past ten years deforestation in Brazil has fallen by 79 percent,” said President Rousseff, during her speech at the U.N. Climate Summit, adding “Brazil does not make promises, it shows results.”
The Ministry’s data shows that while most of the projects aim to reduce the emission of gases that cause the greenhouse effect, other projects such as research on treatment of residues, changes in the use of land and forests, and emission of gases from the energy and industrial sectors also received significant investments.
President Rousseff also said that Brazil’s concern about the environment is not limited to the Brazilian portion of the Amazon region, “We are cooperating with countries in the Amazon Basin in monitoring and combating deforestation.”
At the beginning of September the Brazilian government announced plans to build an enormous tower in the middle of the Amazon forest to monitor climate change and its impact in the region. The tower, according to national daily Estado de S. Paulo will be a joint venture between Brazil’s Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia INPA (National Institute for Amazonian Research) and Germany’s Max Planck Institute.
Yet despite positive government actions, recent studies have shown that climate change is already occurring at a visible rate in the country. Studies have shown that the rivers located in the Eastern part of the Amazon region and in the Northeastern part of Brazil may register a decrease in water of up to twenty percent by the end of the century.
These changes alter the distribution of rivers, reduce the supply of farmable land and render great vulnerability to urban infrastructure. According to the Secretaria de Assuntos Estratégicos –SAE (Secretariat of Strategic Affairs) the estimated costs for the adaptation of agriculture to climate change may go as high as R$2 billion per year due to the need by farmers to modify and genetically improve seeds and increase irrigation.
The agency says that the adaptation of the energy sector to climate changes and the need to expand the energy matrix could cost up to R$10 billion per year by 2050. “The costs to face climate change are high,” admitted Rousseff, “but the benefits more than compensate [for the cost].”
According to the President, “We need to do away with the idea that combating climate change hurts the economy. The reduction of (greenhouse gas) emissions and actions for adaptation should be recognized as sources of wealth so that they attract investments and lead to further actions of sustainable development.”