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An aerial view shows Zebu cattle in an area that had been cleared for pasture bordering the Amazon rainforest in Mato Grosso state, western Brazil, October 4, 2015. Picture taken October 4, 2015. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker - GF10000246510


By Jake Spring

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Germany and Britain will provide a combined $153 million (116.63 million pounds) to expand programs to fight climate change and deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, according to a statement from the Brazilian government on Tuesday.

Roughly $88 million will go to a programme in two Brazilian states that pays indigenous peoples and farmers in exchange for maintaining forest cover. It also provides funding for related sustainable economic development projects.

For the first time, the programme will grow to include the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil's top producer of soy beans, where the rapid expansion of soy and beef farms have made it a hotspot for deforestation. The money will pay to continue the programme already underway in the far western state of Acre.

Brazil is home to much of the Amazon, the world's largest rainforest, the preservation of which is seen as essential for the absorption of carbon emissions and fighting climate change.

Amazon deforestation in Brazil fell 16 percent from August 2016 to July 2017 from a year earlier, due to greater environmental enforcement, although the area cleared remains far above levels needed for the country to reach its climate targets.

Brazil cannot rely only on enforcement to stop deforestation and must launch financial incentives for preserving the forest for further gains, Environment Minister Jose Sarney Filho said late last month.

Sarney Filho said he would raise the issue of how to finance that effort at the UN climate change summit underway in Bonn, Germany, where the deals were announced.

Under the agreements, Germany will also increase its existing investments in the Amazon Fund, which counts Norway as its other major backer, by $39.9 million.

The remaining roughly $25 million from Britain will go to a regional forest preservation project in Brazil, Colombia and Peru, which also contain parts of the Amazon.

(Reporting by Jake Spring)

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