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Brazil's plan to save the Amazon rainforest
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
June 02, 2009
Brazil has its own designs for REDD
"Brazil is not interested in giving industrialized countries cheap carbon credits from protecting the Amazon if they are not going to stop building coal-fired power plants," said William Boyd, a professor of law at the University of Colorado who has worked extensively on REDD policy issues.
However Brazil is well aware of the projected impacts of climate change. Scientists expect climate change to increase rainfall in the heart of the Amazon, boosting the risk of flooding. Paradoxically, the south will suffer from increased incidence of drought, which could devastate its agricultural heartland, undermine its ability to supply itself with energy (biofuels and hydroelectric power), and turn vast areas of rainforest and savanna into a tinderbox. Brazil has already had a taste of this future. A severe drought in 2005—triggered by above normal temperatures in the tropical Atlantic—spurred widespread fires, reduced electricity generation from hydro plants, and turned rivers into muddy ponds, isolating communities and bringing river-based commerce to a standstill. Meanwhile last month, near record floods killed hundreds and left more than half a million homeless.
Acknowledging these threats to its economy and anticipating some form of climate agreement in coming years, Brazil last year announced a plan to reduce deforestation by 70 percent from a 1996-2005 baseline, a move that would cut emissions from deforestation—the source of roughly 80 percent of the country's emissions—by 4.8 billion tons between 2006 and 2017, an amount greater than the annual emissions of Canada and the E.U. combined. To pay for the program, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva created the Amazon Fund, which he seeks to finance to the tune of $21 billion through donations from industrialized countries, individuals, and private companies. But under the current design, the scheme would be somewhat akin to development aid rather than be part of a market with fungible carbon offsets.
Though the details for how the Amazon Fund will actually reduce deforestation are somewhat abstract, the government of Norway has already agreed to provide up to $1 billion—contingent on Brazil's success in reducing deforestation. But so far no other countries have put up money for the fund.
Brenda Brito, executive director at Imazon, a Brazilian research institute, who is drafting a resolution for the Forum for a Sustainable Amazon to present at upcoming climate negotiations, suggests that donations may not be forthcoming because countries are waiting to see what happens at upcoming U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen this December.
"I think the fund is a good initiative to demonstrate that it is possible to have a national controlled mechanism to concentrate international resources for REDD, but at the same time it’s not clear if the fund will be compatible with a possible regime of REDD to be created in Copenhagen," she told mongabay.com. "For example, if there’s a decision to create an international fund for REDD, would other countries still make donations to the Amazon fund? I think that such uncertainty may be affecting other possible donations to the fund and that the decisions in December will be fundamental to determine the future of the Amazon Fund regarding other countries' willingness to make donations."
Sergio Abranches, a Brazilian environmental journalist and radio commentator, suggests a third possibility for the lack of support: concerns over accountability and governance. There are questions whether a scheme to reduce deforestation can be implemented by Brazil's massive development bank, BNDES, which is better known for funding projects that drive forest clearing than for its environmental record. Some observers question whether Brazil can actually control deforestation, noting that recent deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon more closely reflects economic trends than government enforcement.
There are also worries that Brazil will use the Amazon Fund as to block other, potentially more effective, forest conservation proposals.
"The fund will be used by the Brazilian government to oppose better structured REDD proposals," Abranches told mongabay.com. "There is no model behind it, it is being structured on the fly. There is no clear policy regarding the use of the money it could raise."
"I fear it will benefit companies and projects scarcely related to forest conservation and sustainable use, over local communities and investment in science and technology to develop a new and advanced economic model for the Amazon. It could, for instance, finance cattle wholesalers and exporters (the same that appear on Greenpeace's recent analysis of cattle ranching and deforestation) to improve their activities, instead of funding alternative economic ventures that could become an alternative to cattle ranching in the Amazon."
"If the Brazilian government continues to oppose the inclusion of forests/REDD to the climate deal it is very likely that the most important environmental organizations, engaged corporate representatives and several Amazon governors will publicly oppose the government's position."
Nevertheless Brazil's commitment to reducing deforestation is a monumental one with national credibility and substantial sums of money tied to its outcome.
"The reason Lula was willing to stand up in front of the international community and commit to reducing Brazil's national deforestation 70 percent over the next decade was that he believes Brazil can reduce its deforestation rate. He and Environment Minister Carlos Minc have real grounds for believing that. Their government created an area of new protected areas the size of France in five years, between 2003 and 2008, mostly right in the middle of the expanding agricultural frontier—not in end-off-the-world regions where no one cares about the land."
"The Amazon Fund is an important and innovative step. It is the first time that a major tropical country has set up any kind of a mechanism to try to create a means to compensate a whole array of actors that will have to benefit if a national-level program to reduce deforestation is going to work. I don't think we can expect that there will be no glitches. If you take a look at it from a historical perspective -- there have been a lot of agricultural frontiers over the course of the history of this planet. All of Western Europe was forest at one time. All of the eastern United States was native forest at one time. There's never been an example of a nation undertaking to regulate and control the ecological and environmental effects of frontier expansion. This is new territory—it's not like there's a recipe in a cookbook for this. People who are concerned with the Amazon Fund need to help it deliver on its promise."
These project-level versus national-level concerns are shared among indigenous communities that are exploring the possibilities of REDD. Indigenous groups are also worried that because they have historically served as guardians of forests—deforestation rates in indigenous territories are lower than in parks and unprotected areas—they won't qualify for REDD payments, which reward activities that reduce forest clearing relative to a baseline of past deforestation.
"REDD should enhance recognition that indigenous people have maintained the state of their forests, not penalize them for this stewardship,” said Vasco van Roosmalen, director of the Amazon Conservation Team-Brazil, an NGO that has helped the Surui tribe develop carbon project in the state of Acre.
Paulo Moutinho, a forest policy expert at the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (IPAM), a Brazilian NGO, says that structuring the Amazon Fund under rights principles that guarantee an equitable distribution of benefits among important stakeholders will be key to addressing some of these concerns and making the Fund an effective means for reducing deforestation.
"There are many challenges involving the Fund, but it was built with a large participation of Brazilian society," Moutinho told mongabay. "Every sector of this society is now represented by the Fund's organizational committee."
Moutinho still believes that the Fund will need to be open to some form of carbon market to be effective.
But while Brazil will present a unified front in Copenhagen, it is unlikely that its insistence on a pure fund-based mechanism is set in stone. The country is well aware that a market-based system may be the most lucrative way for it to capitalize on the potential value of its vast natural assets including forest carbon, water, and biodiversity. Consultancy McKinsey & Co. estimates that under a relatively conservative scenario Brazil could rake in 30 billion per year in payments for ecosystem services by 2030 making it "the Saudi Arabia of ecosystem services."
How to save the Amazon rainforest
(01/04/2009) Environmentalists have long voiced concern over the vanishing Amazon rainforest, but they haven't been particularly effective at slowing forest loss. In fact, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars in donor funds that have flowed into the region since 2000 and the establishment of more than 100 million hectares of protected areas since 2002, average annual deforestation rates have increased since the 1990s, peaking at 73,785 square kilometers (28,488 square miles) of forest loss between 2002 and 2004. With land prices fast appreciating, cattle ranching and industrial soy farms expanding, and billions of dollars' worth of new infrastructure projects in the works, development pressure on the Amazon is expected to accelerate. Given these trends, it is apparent that conservation efforts alone will not determine the fate of the Amazon or other rainforests. Some argue that market measures, which value forests for the ecosystem services they provide as well as reward developers for environmental performance, will be the key to saving the Amazon from large-scale destruction. In the end it may be the very markets currently driving deforestation that save forests.
Brazil's ecosystem payments system offers clues for REDD implementation
(02/25/2009) Brazil's existing system for environmental services payments could offer insight for implementing carbon-credits-for-forest-conservation (REDD) initiatives in the Amazon rainforest, argues a London School of Economics researcher in a new paper published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.
Original source: http://news.mongabay.com/2009/0602-brazil.html
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