Amazon states, global leaders in emissions reductions

Two states in the Brazilian Amazon — Mato Grosso and Pará emitted more greenhouse gases in 2004 than all but six nations in the world. More climate pollution than Japan. By 2012 they had cut emissions so dramatically, they dropped beneath 37 other countries.

This progress, achieved through reduced deforestation, is a major reason for the 80%  decline in Amazon deforestation between 2005 and 2014.

At the Paris climate conference, these two states rolled out plans for even more ambitious action.


(source: Observatório de Clima SEEG)

Ambitious forest policy is key to climate progress

Slowing Amazon deforestation has kept over 4 billion tons of CO₂ out of the atmosphere since 2005, several times more than the EU’s emissions reductions from 2005 – 2011. Major causes of the decline include better remote sensing monitoring, ramped-up law enforcement, credit limitations, company commitments to zero-deforestation commodity supply chains, large-scale creation of protected areas and recognition of indigenous territories.

The bad news is that plans positive incentives – payments from polluters to preserve forests — have not materialized.  Consequently, while deforestation dropped to a historic low of 4,500 km² in 2012 (from a peak of 27,000 km² in 2004), it has crept back up to around 5,000 km² in recent years.

But overall, the Brazilian government, Amazon states and forest peoples’ communities have made a very significant contribution to combatting climate change, not least in demonstrating that it is possible to reduce large-scale tropical deforestation on national and state levels. This is important, because reducing deforestation and restoring and reforesting cleared and degraded lands could reduce global emissions by some 30% — or more.  Stopping deforestation and restoring forests on cleared and degraded forests could go a long ways toward closing the substantial gap between reductions pledged at Paris and keeping warming under 2°C.

Climate ambition in the Amazon

That’s why the big news on the forest front at the climate conference is that Amazon states – Mato Grosso and Pará in particular – are putting plans and proposals on the table that would enable them to consolidate the gains they’ve made, and do even more.

Mato Grosso Governor Pedro Taques rolled out the state’s “Produce, Conserve, Include” strategy at an event in Paris for investors and companies.  Sixty per cent of Mato Grosso has intact native vegetation (forest and savanna), and the state strategy is to maintain all of this, while intensifying and increasing agriculture on already cleared lands.

The plan proposes to eradicate illegal deforestation and compensate the owners of the 1 million hectares available for legal deforestation, as well as to restore 2.9 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. Also by 2030, 100% of family farmers are scheduled to get technical assistance, in order to ramp up their share of production of the food consumed in the state and increase household incomes. Overall, between reducing deforestation and restoring degraded lands, the strategy aims to deliver 6 billion tons of CO² reductions and removals by 2030.

Pará, with about 80% of its 1.25 million km² under intact forest (an area the size of California and Texas together), has the largest expanse of forest at immediate risk in the world. The state has nonetheless reduced its deforestation 70% since 2005. Director of the state’s innovative “Green Municipalities Program” Justiniano Neto announced in Paris that the state has taken an 80% deforestation reduction target by 2020 – and proposes to reach zero net deforestation from 2020 on. The state is using cutting-edge remote sensing technology to pinpoint illegal deforestation and freeze state services – including recognition of land claims – where it is occurring. It has enrolled 105 of its 144 counties in the Green Municipalities Program and allocated resources from tax revenues to reward counties that reduce deforestation and protect forests.

Strong Words from Brazil

Pará and Mato Grosso are not the only ones engaged in building a new paradigm for low-carbon rural development. Another Paris climate event sponsored by EDF, Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), Amazon Institute for People and the Environment (IMAZON) and Center for Life Institute (ICV) – featured Brazil’s former Environment Minister Marina Silva, responsible for the National Plan for Prevention and Control of Amazon Deforestation that put in place the federal policies contributing to the reduction.

Silva lauded Pará and Mato Grosso and other Amazon states , including Acre – for their leadership . In an implicit criticism of the Brazilian pledge to end illegal deforestation by 2030, she emphasized that criminality is never acceptable or tolerable. Asked about the Brazilian Government’s recent decree purporting to create a national strategy to create payments for forest protection, Silva noted that while the idea (REDD+) was good, the decree could not be expected to generate results because of a non-transparent  process and lack of mechanisms for its implementation.

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