“Now you just see smoke,” not the sun. That’s an indigenous woman living in Acre, Brazil, describing this year’s Amazon drought, one of the worst in recent decades. Even old growth forest, normally too damp to burn, has succumbed to fires that are set mainly to create pasture for cattle. Burning, water-starved rainforest isn’t an oxymoron anymore. Amazon River tributaries have run dry or their water levels dropped precipitously.
Before the 2009 UN climate change summit, the government made a commitment to reduce Brazil’s GHG emissions 40 percent from projected levels by 2020. Half of the GHG cuts will come from reduced deforestation, and the other from the industrial and farming sectors. But the Brazilian government also set another goal: to double the size of Brazil’s cattle herd by 2018. And cattle production is responsible for as much as 50 percent of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions, a joint government agency-NGO assessment suggests. Nations and citizens are getting ready for the 2010 UN climate change summit in Cancun (COP 16), which begins next week. The smart money is on not much coming out of the conference that’s concrete. But smarter money may look to the thousands of civil society groups that will also be in Cancun (including Brighter Green) for ideas both practical and visionary — and the mettle to try and hold governments accountable for what they do, and what they don’t. Here’s just one of the multiple NGO platforms, the statement of principles from the Klimaforum 2010, which continues its work from the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit.
Photo courtesy Namuchila/Flickr