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Brazil: A Deforestation Success Story

Posted on the 09 September 2014 by Angelicolaw @AngelicoLaw

Twenty years ago, the world’s attention was drawn to the dramatic rate of deforestation. According to the World Resources Institute, deforestation was claiming 16 million hectares of land each year. Deforestation was also contributing 17% of the global warming pollution. Amazingly, Brazil was the third largest source of global warming emissions of CO2 by the end of the 1990s, behind the United States and China.

Though many assumed the deforestation trend was irreversible, thanks to concentrated efforts at protecting forests while simultaneously boosting local economies, the situation has improved. The FAO reported in 2010 that the rate of deforestation had decreased 19%, down to 13 million hectares per year.

Brazil Has Achieved the Largest Reduction in Deforestation

Even though most countries are taking the threat of climate change seriously and are pursuing efforts to reduce their global warming emissions, in most economic sectors these emissions are still on the rise. That’s what makes Brazil a success story.

As in many other countries, Brazil experienced an increase in emissions from 2001 to 2011 in nearly all sectors. However, in the land use change sector, Brazil’s emissions dropped 64%. This helped Brazil achieve a net decrease in CO2 emissions by almost 30%.

The dramatic drop in emissions was the direct result of the significant decrease in deforestation in the Amazon. Close to 60% of the world’s largest tropical forest grows within Brazil’s borders. And, according to researchers, only about 80% of the original forest still remains standing.

So, What Changed?

Deforestation experts credit this “breathtaking” reduction to a changing political dynamic in Brazil. First, former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso created new protected areas in the Amazon that included indigenous reserves and sustainable use areas. Former President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva expanded this effort with the Plan for the Prevention and Combating of Deforestation in the Amazon (PDCDAm).

Marina Silva, the first Minister of the Environment and current presidential candidate, continued to emphasize the importance of creating protected areas in the Amazon. Initially, many of the government’s policies were directed at achieving social and economic development in the rural sector. The success of these programs reduced the poverty rate and economic inequality, which led to increased support for deforestation efforts.

This social and environmental movement that began in the late 1990s continued to pick up steam. By the mid-2000s, the movement brought together social and environmental organizations from all parts of the country to form the Zero Deforestation campaign. As a result of internal and international political and financial pressure, two important things happened: the Soy Moratorium and the Cattle Moratorium.

In 2006, the soy industry declared a moratorium on deforestation and made a pledge to not buy soybeans produced on deforested Amazon lands. Three years later, the cattle industry agreed to stop clearing forests to expand their pastures. Both of these purely voluntary moratoriums were enforced by the Brazilian government.

While Brazil still faces ongoing environmental challenges, it can be proud of the progress it has made in reducing the rate of the deforestation of the Amazon.

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