Financial Times interview transcript: Marina Silva
By Jonathan Wheatley in Sao Paulo
Published: October 5 2009
Jonathan Wheatley, the FT’s Brazil correspondent, interviewed Marina Silva in her office in Brazil’s Senate on September 18. Ms Silva, who was elected to the Senate for the first time in 1994, was Brazil’s environment minister between January 2003 and May 2008, when she left in frustration at what she saw as the failure of other ministries to give due concern to environmental issues. She was a founder member in 1980 of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s leftwing Workers’ Party (PT) but left the party in August this year at the height of a corruption scandal involving José Sarney, president of the Senate, after Mr Lula da Silva threw his support behind Mr Sarney, a former political adversary. She has since joined the Green Party and is widely expected to run as its candidate in presidential elections next October.
FT: What do you expect of the Copenhagen meeting? What should Brazil demand of developed nations and what should it hope to achieve?
MS: First, I think we need to have a political posture that is coherent with what we want to demand. This means we should first make the effort internally to ensure that Brazil is committed to targets but that these should be global targets, not just for reducing deforestation but covering all sectors that produce emissions. How this will be done, how we will do the distribution, is something that needs to be worked on internally with transparency, involving the government, society, businesses and academia. I think this is a sine qua non.
Another aspect is that we have to reduce emissions in a way that ensures that temperatures rise by a maximum of two degrees, meaning a maximum of 450 particles per million [the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere regarded as a threshold beyond which global warming becomes irreversible]. This means a big effort by developed countries. And the architecture necessary to make this possible for developed countries should also allow emerging countries to make their contribution, so that we can reach this target at the global level and, by 2020, have a very strong signal that we are going to be able to achieve this by the middle of the century.
There is often a mistaken view put forward in these debates that it is easier to make reductions by reducing deforestation than by other mechanisms. Obviously, reducing deforestation is fundamental, this is not in question. It has to be reduced, yes. But this doesn’t mean it is easy. It is just as difficult [as other means of reducing emissions]. And it presupposes changing the model of development for developing countries. In the same way that it is hard for rich countries to alter their energy systems from fossil fuels to renewable fuels, it is hard for developing countries to change their model of development. This has a cost. People often argue [reducing deforestation] is easier because the cost is less, to achieve reductions, but this is not the way it should be thought about. It’s not that there is a lower cost or that for this reason we should think only about deforestation. We need to think about global emissions in general to achieve global results. That’s why I argue that Brazil has to have a global target and that we should have commitments that achieve this reduction by the middle of the century. Obviously this will be made easier if we have a good architecture in place by 2020 at the latest.
FT: Should Brazil demand that rich countries provide finance to help developing countries reduce emissions?
MS: I think, yes, there should be support from developed countries not only in terms of finance but also to find a mechanism that makes it possible to change the model of development, and also transfer of technology. This is important. It is not only a matter of resources. Now, this shouldn’t be expressed as a pre-condition for doing anything. It should be expressed as a means of doing more than we would do with our own resources alone. But there should be a priority in terms of internal resources that from the outset signals Brazil’s commitment to what it wants to reduce. It should not be a question of getting external funding first in order to be able to start to do anything.
Interview continues at Financial Times