TOPICS: Join Brazil in planting oil

The 21st century will be marked by a crucial debate: how can we make economic and social development compatible with the preservation of our natural environment? While the developed world has benefited from the prosperity generated by economic progress, poor countries suffer the consequences of environmental degradation resulting from uncontrolled growth. Rich countries are responsible for 41 per cent of total carbon dioxide emissions and their consumption of raw materials is four times greater than that of other countries.

The scale of Brazil’s assets is extraordinary: the Amazon region contains 20 per cent of the planet’s fresh water, and two-thirds of the country is still covered by natural vegetation. We have been implementing policies that address our environmental concerns.

When I began my term of office, the rate of deforestation in Brazil had been increasing by an average of 27 per cent per year. From the second half of 2004 onwards, we took measures to monitor tree-felling and to address the issue of land distribution, with the result that the rate of deforestation has fallen dramatically. In a country that suffers from profound social inequalities, the success of environmental policy depends more on economic and social measures that are themselves geared towards the preservation of environment.

Over the next 10 years we will place an additional 13 million hectares of the Amazon region under a management regime that will guarantee the forest’s regeneration cycle. And our commitment to a responsible approach extends well beyond our own territory. It is imperative that we put into practice the commitments of the Kyoto protocol to combat the devastating impact of global warming.

The international community is recognising the need for a radical rethink in relation to the generation of energy, and Brazil is responding by using clean, renewable, alternative energy sources to an ever-greater extent. More than 40 per cent of Brazil’s energy comes from “green’’ sources, in comparison with seven per cent in rich countries.

The ethanol Brazil produces from sugarcane is attracting worldwide interest, for it is one of the cheapest types of fuel derived from renewable sources. Three-quarters of the cars now being produced in Brazil have “flex-fuel’’ engines, capable of running on either ethanol or petrol, or any mixture of the two.

The government has implemented environmental initiatives that are bringing social benefits like the biodiesel project. Produced from oil-bearing plants, biodiesel is significantly less polluting than petroleum-based diesel. As small farmers can easily produce it, the project combines environmental protection with rural development. Brazil is preparing for a new development paradigm that will meet the environmental and social challenges of the coming decades. Ethanol and biodiesel are the key components of our approach, and we are determined to “plant the oil of the future’’. You too can join us. — The Guardian

Lula da Silva is the Brazilian prez