Climate 411

New program pays landowners to protect forests on their farms in Brazil

Join us during London Climate Action Week for the webinar Demonstrating on-the-ground incentives to protect forests in Mato Grosso, Brazil on November 16th, 11:30 am EST where we’ll be discussing this issue and more.

By Breno Pietracci, Ph.D., economist at Environmental Defense Fund

Many Brazilian farmers have large tracts of Amazon rainforest and Cerrado tropical savanna on their properties. According to the 2012 Brazilian Forest Code, landowners in the Amazon must maintain at least 80% of their farms as standing forests while those in the Cerrado must keep no less than 35%. Farmers have the right to clear all vegetation above these legal thresholds.

But what if over-compliant farmers were financially rewarded to keep those forests they can legally deforest alive? That’s the aim of CONSERV, a novel and groundbreaking forest protection program recently launched in Brazil, with international debut scheduled for the London Climate Action Week. CONSERV is a systemic, scalable initiative that constitutes part of a set of strategies that can reduce deforestation at a jurisdictional (national or state-level) scale.

Brazil has successfully reduced deforestation by deploying an arsenal of command-and-control forest conservation policies over the last decades. From 2004 to 2012, deforestation in the Legal Amazon fell by more than 80% with a combination of increased law enforcement, expansion of protected areas – indigenous territories and conservation units, rural credit reforms and supply chain initiatives. Such remarkable achievement has mainly relied upon using “sticks” (penalties) and only limited “carrots” (incentives).

Over those years, some multilateral programs have attempted to use incentive-based payments for performance in reducing deforestation at large scales, namely the Amazon Fund and the REDD+ Early Movers program in the states of Acre and Mato Grosso. However, these have not yet been deployed at a scale to significantly change the behavior of rural producers.

As few positive incentives have materialized in the effort to reduce Amazon deforestation in Brazil, since 2013 the gains in preventing deforestation have stalled and are now under threat with weakened command-and-control and law enforcement. CONSERV is a first step in providing the missing positive incentive piece of the equation.

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Also posted in Forest protection, International, REDD+ / Comments are closed

As Amazon deforestation rises, so does the need for urgent action

Deforestation in the Amazon. iStock.

The year 2020 was expected to be a “super year” for global action on climate change. Instead, it’s become an “extraordinary year” for a global community trying to cope with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amidst this backdrop, deforestation throughout the Amazon has been rising steadily, jumping 55% in the first four months of 2020 compared to the same period last year. This is no coincidence. Loggers, miners, land-grabbers and individuals clearing land for soy and livestock are taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to illegally clear the forest.

Enforcement of forest protection was already severely weakened across the Amazon, due in part to anti-environmental leadership and rhetoric, such as that of President Bolsonaro in Brazil. The virus has forced many of the field agents responsible for keeping forest invaders out to retreat, making it virtually impossible to enforce environmental laws and leaving these areas open to destruction. As we enter fire season, deforestation could get much worse due to warmer than average sea surface temperatures which could exacerbate the spread of fires. It all makes for a “perfect storm” that is threatening the Amazon forest and is already having disastrous impacts on the Indigenous communities who depend on forests.

Increased deforestation will jeopardize the rainforest’s rich biodiversity and extensive carbon stocks. It’s pushing the Amazon closer to the tipping point where deforestation will be irreversible. And it’s hindering global climate change mitigation efforts.

If the global community is going to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, Convention on Biological Diversity, the New York Declaration on Forests and other frameworks, then countries and companies need to prioritize forest protection.

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Also posted in Forest protection, Indigenous People, International, Jobs, REDD+ / Comments are closed

How Brazil can develop its rural economy, increase agricultural production and protect forests

Day one panel “How should the rural economy be in the future?” featuring, from left, Carlos Nobre (IEA-USP), André Guimarães (IPAM), Regina Sambuichi (Ipea), and Juliano Assunção (PUC-RIO). Photo by IPC-IG on Flickr .

The recent fires in the Amazon rainforest have raised the question: is it possible to have a new model of development in the region that reconciles forest protection with economic growth?

The pressing threats of climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation along with a growing global demand for agricultural commodities, pose major challenges and opportunities for rural economies.

A group of Brazilian and international scientists, economists, and government officials joined private sector, civil society and multilateral organization representatives in Brasília to discuss how these challenges could be turned into economic and environmental opportunities for the Brazilian rural sector.

The two day workshop, “Business Opportunities for a Sustainable Rural Economy: The Contribution from Forests and Agriculture,” examined different facets of Brazil’s potential in a low-carbon rural economy. Organized by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in partnership with the Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea) of the Brazilian Ministry of Economy, and the United Nations Development Program – International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG), participants concluded that Brazil has an unparalleled comparative advantage to foster a buoyant sustainable rural economy that couples economic and agricultural development with environmental protection.

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Also posted in Agriculture, Carbon Markets, Forest protection / Read 1 Response

When it comes to avoiding deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, new study reveals that federal and state agencies have had different outcomes

Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest, near Manaus. Photo by Neal Palmer via Flickr.

(This post was co-written by study co-author Alex Pfaff)

Protecting the Amazon rainforest is critical for mitigating climate change and meeting other global environmental goals. This vast but threatened ecosystem provides essential services like carbon storage, watershed protection and species habitat. Protecting these global services using a range of environmental strategies could justify significant climate finance, green supply chain investments, and other economic opportunities for Brazil.

Brazil made significant strides in reducing deforestation between 2004 and 2012, all while increasing agricultural production. Many heralded Brazil as a world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, deforestation did not drop evenly across the Amazon. In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we seek to understand why forest protection efforts in the Brazilian Amazon differed in their impacts, across the region, with a focus on the government agency in charge.

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Also posted in Forest protection, Indigenous People / Comments are closed

What ProPublica’s forest carbon credits story still gets wrong – and right (with update)

By Steve Schwartzman, Senior Director, Tropical Forest Policy, and Christina McCain, Director, Latin America

Amazon Canopy. Warwick Lister-Kaye / istockphoto.com.

***Please read on for our response to ProPublica’s follow-up article***

ProPublica’s recent piece An (Even More) Inconvenient Truth is a deeply reported story on very real problems – and even bigger potential problems – with offset projects in existing and emerging carbon markets. But the evidence the article lays out does not support its conclusion about forest carbon crediting. And readers might come away without understanding that protecting forests, including through forest carbon credits, is one of the most important solutions to climate change out there, and the planet can’t afford to dismiss this opportunity to solve the climate crisis.

Missing: The critical distinction between individual “projects” and large-scale, state-level programs to reduce deforestation

It’s not news that bad carbon credits won’t solve climate change. Lots of studies have shown that there are all kinds of bad offset projects, and definitely not just forest projects. But today’s jurisdictional forest credits aren’t your parents’ forest project offsets: they’re real emissions reductions. Though you wouldn’t be able to tell that from the ProPublica story.

The ProPublica piece fails to distinguish large-scale national or provincial programs to reduce emissions from deforestation – known as “jurisdictional” programs – from one-off, small “projects” to reduce deforestation. ProPublica’s implication that old projects had failings and therefore now so must contemporary jurisdictional programs, is like saying flip phones had all sorts of problems, so all cell phones must be unreliable and we should shun smartphones.  Read More »

Also posted in California, Carbon Markets, Forest protection, Indigenous People, Paris Agreement, REDD+, United Nations / Read 5 Responses

Indigenous mobilization wins battle in President Bolsonaro’s war on indigenous peoples

https://www.flickr.com/photos/agenciasenado/47651605312/

Indigenous people mobilizing for land rights during the Free Land Encampment (Acampamento Terra Livre) in Brasilia, Brazil on April 25, 2019. Photo: Leopoldo Silva/Agência Senado via Flickr

Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s personal crusade to extinguish indigenous rights and devastate indigenous territories just hit a wall. Two, actually. Both Brazil’s Supreme Court and Brazil’s top congressional leaders handed Bolsonaro setbacks over his executive decision to move control of protecting indigenous lands to the agriculture ministry, which is controlled by members of the agribusiness lobby known for its opposition to indigenous land rights.

Taken together, this means that Bolsonaro’s signature action to start the rollback of indigenous territories and declare open season on Amazon deforestation – which needs both congressional and judicial approval to fly – looks to be crashing on takeoff. It’s also a glimmer of hope for indigenous and environmental protections in a country now led by a president openly hostile to Brazil’s indigenous peoples and Amazon rainforest – repositories of its vast social and biological diversity, and key to stabilizing the global climate.

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Also posted in Forest protection, Indigenous People / Comments are closed