Thursday, May 26, 2011

Brazil beavers away on Lungs of the Planet

Interesting contrast between these two press reports, one from a couple years back, one current.

Breathing Space for the Lungs of the Planet? Brazil takes the lead once again
Los Angeles was the setting from September 30th to October 3rd for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Global Climate Summit, which was convened to focus on sub-national initiatives on climate change in the run up to Copenhagen, and which drew governors from around the world.

Six governors were present from Brazil, including five from the Amazon. During their presentations, the Amazonian governors committed to reducing deforestation by 80% by 2020 and appealed to the international community to assist them in attaining this goal. President Lula made a similar commitment at the 2009 UN General Assembly the week before.

This is a remarkable commitment because saving the world’s rainforests is the most effective short term way to reduce global warming. As the “lungs of the planet,” the Amazon is by far the largest rainforest:

* It contains fully 25% of the earth’s biodiversity
* It contains 20% of all the earth’s fresh water
* It constitutes the largest carbon sink in the world.
And so on.

That was then. This is now:

Brazil eases rules on conserving Amazon rainforest
Brazil's Chamber of Deputies has voted to ease restrictions on the amount of land farmers must preserve as forest.

Under the current law, 80% of a farm in the Amazon must remain forested; in other areas, the requirement is lower, falling to 20%.

However, in practice, the legislation has not been widely enforced. It is estimated that 20% of the Amazon, the world's biggest rainforest, has been cleared, mainly as a result of logging and farming.

Under the new bill, small-scale landowners, who make up the majority of Brazil's farmers, will be exempt from having to replant deforested land.

The changes were proposed by Aldo Rebelo form Brazil's Communist Party (PCdoB), who argued that the existing rules prevented small farmers from making best use of their land to lift themselves out of poverty.

Farmers' groups backed the changes, saying Brazil, as one of the biggest exporters of soy, beef and sugar, needed to boost food production in times of high commodity prices.

"None of the world's large farm producers that compete with Brazil - the United States, Europe, China, Argentina and Australia - obliges its producers to preserve any forest," the National Agriculture Confederation (CNA) said.

The world was prosperous a few years back. Now not so much. Conservation is, bottom line, an affordability equation, measured by the fleeting life span of a single person. Sadly.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Let us help you protect yourself from us

Businesses criticize whistleblower reward plan
The government already pays bounties to whistleblowers for exposing fraud, from tax evasion to Medicare scams and Pentagon procurement abuses.

As part of an overhaul of financial regulation, Congress and President Obama last year demanded a formal reward system at the SEC, which polices Wall Street and punishes fraud against investors. Under the Wall Street regulatory overhaul known as the Dodd-Frank Act, whistleblowers are entitled to rewards of 10 percent to 30 percent of the money they help the SEC recoup through enforcement actions.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a far-reaching proposal to combat corporate wrongdoing by paying private employees to join the fight. The bounties could give tipsters a powerful incentive to expose the kind of abuses that have cost investors dearly, from the Enron and WorldCom accounting frauds of a decade ago to the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac scandals of later years and alleged misrepresentations involving toxic mortgages.

Some business groups have said they are worried that the SEC could be overwhelmed with tips. They say they want to ease the burden on regulators by screening the complaints.

“Companies are far better equipped to assess complaints in the context of their particular business and to ‘separate the wheat from the chaff,’ ” two major Wall Street groups, the Financial Services Roundtable and the American Bankers Association, said in a December letter to the SEC.

The article includes mention of many of the pushbacks wanted by industry, which, on the whole, strip the regulations of most efficacy, in Guambat's opinion.

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