Rich nations should pay poorer countries to preserve their forests

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Monday that rich nations should pay poorer countries to preserve their forests because the rich are responsible for most of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Silva said he would propose a fund to reward developing countries that reduce the rate at which they cut down their forests during this week's Group of Eight summit in Germany.

Countries "should be financially compensated," Silva said in his weekly radio address, "Breakfast with the President."

The proposal, floated by the environment minister, would reward nations that keep deforestation below projections and would compute the funding based on how much carbon was kept out of the atmosphere.

Silva said that "65 percent of (greenhouse) gas emissions in the atmosphere are produced by rich countries, so they have the biggest responsibility to clean up the planet."

Only a tiny fraction of Europe's original forests remain, while Brazil has preserved more than 60 percent, Silva said.

Brazil is home to the bulk of the world's largest remaining tropical wilderness, the Amazon, which covers nearly 60 percent of the country, or about 4.1 million square kilometers (1.6 million square miles).

However, most of Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation and burning in the Amazon rainforest, releasing about 370 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year - about 5 percent of the world's total - scientists say.

About 20 percent of the rainforest has already been cut down and while the rate of destruction has slowed in recent years, environmentalists say it remains alarmingly high.