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Brazil to Push for Greater Compliance of Environmental Goals at Johannesburg Summit - 2002-08-22

Brazil says it will press for greater compliance with the environmental goals of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit at the upcoming World Sustainable Development Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. Brazil, which was host of the 1992 meeting, says it feels a special responsibility for the success of the Johannesburg summit.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Lafer says his country feels responsible for ensuring that the legacy of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit is carried forward. Mr. Lafer, who held a news conference in Brasilia Thursday, described that legacy as one that promotes "convergence, cooperation, and solidarity" in the international sphere.

At the 1992 Earth Summit, representatives from more than 170 nations outlined a series of objectives to preserve the environment and promote sustainable economic development. The key document from that conference, called Agenda 21, pledged signatory nations to, among other things, combat poverty and deforestation, protect the atmosphere and oceans, and conserve biological diversity.

But achieving these objectives has proved difficult. Only the countries of Scandinavia have complied with the goal established in Rio for rich nations to set aside 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product for development aid.

The effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by setting specific targets also suffered a setback when the United States last year refused to adopt the Kyoto Protocol for economic reasons. The Bush administration also said it considered the treaty unfair because it requires only developed nations to comply with the emission targets.

However, Brazilian Foreign Minister Lafer said Thursday his country considers climate change as one of the most important issues to be dealt with. He said in Johannesburg, Brazil will call on all nations to meet the responsibilities they agreed to at the Rio Earth Summit.

"We will insist, as a delegation, on compliance with what I call the Spirit of Rio," he said. "That is, the goals set out by the declaration of Rio, the theme of common and individual responsibilities, the idea that the environment is not something esoteric, and the concerns over the means of implementation. In terms of implementation, there's the financial question, the question of transfer of technology, and there's the question, which I think is very important, of trade access to markets."

Also at his news conference, Mr. Lafer announced that the leaders of Brazil and Germany will sign an agreement in Johannesburg that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Under the accord, the German company Volkswagen, which has plants in Brazil, will build 100,000 cars in Brazil powered by ethanol. In return, Volkswagen will get a credit for reducing emissions by a certain percentage, which will help Germany meet its emission targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

Mr. Lafer said the protocol allows industrial countries that invest in sustainable development projects in developing nations to get emission credits. He called the Volkswagen deal a good example of how countries can work together to reduce greenhouse gases.

Meantime, in a gesture prior to attending the Johannesburg summit, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso signed a bill Thursday creating the world's largest tropical forest park. The Tumucumaque park, in the northern Amazon state of Amapa, sets aside 3.8 million hectares of rainforest to be protected from development.