Aerial photo showing deforested tracts of land in the Brazilian Amazon. The Amazon contains one-third of the Earth's remaining tropical rain forests. These forests are key to stabilizing local and global climate, as they contain vast stores of carbon. Up to 75 percent of Brazilian greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation and forest fires - mainly in the Amazon. Because of this, Brazil is the fourth largest climate polluter in the world. © Zig Koch/WWF
Despite the Brazilian government’s recent crack-down to stop the accelerating loss of the Amazon’s rain forests, deforestation continues to increase. From August 2007 to July 2008, Brazil deforested almost 3 million acres – an area nearly the size of the state of Connecticut.
The annual deforestation data gathered by Brazil’s space agency reveals a 3.8 percent increase from last year’s rate, and follows three successive years of declining deforestation. In spite of measures the government announced at the end of 2007 to combat deforestation, rising commodity prices – soy and cattle – and illegal land occupation and exploitation were setbacks to these efforts.
Brazil’s rain forests and the global climate
All Eyes on Poznan
The United Nations Climate Change Conference is taking place in Poznan, Poland from December 1 – 12, 2008. This meeting is a milestone in the global fight against climate change.
Reducing deforestation in the Amazon is a critical component of lowering Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions. On December 1, 2008, the Brazilian government released the National Climate Change Plan, in time for the meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in Poznan, Poland.
In its climate change plan – which contains Brazil’s first deforestation targets – the government establishes incremental goals of reducing annual deforestation rates, with the final goal of decreasing deforestation in the Amazon by more than half over the next 10 years. Achieving this reduction would be conditional upon the existence of new and additional funding. The plan also adopts a target of zero net deforestation by increasing the amount of planted forests in Brazil by 2015, a goal originally proposed in a 2007 pact by WWF and eight Brazilian conservation organizations. If the entire climate change plan is successful, Brazil could keep 4.8 billion tons of CO2 emissions out of the atmosphere.
To help achieve these ambitious goals, WWF is urging the government of Brazil and other Amazon countries to protect their rainforests by formally recognizing their natural value. By putting a monetary value on the multiple benefits people receive from the forests, those whose lands provide services will be compensated, with subsidies or market payments from those who benefit. This could mean that downstream users of water purified by an upstream forest – such as bottling companies or local residents, would pay those who manage the forests – such indigenous people or rural producers. Economic incentives will strengthen forest governance and optimize the use of already deforested areas.
WWF and Brazil: a close partnership
As part of its long-term conservation strategy for the Amazon, WWF supports a wide range of initiatives aimed at protecting natural ecosystems and managing natural resources. In Brazil, WWF jointly developed the world’s largest tropical rain forest conservation program with the government of Brazil and partners – the Amazon Region Protected Areas Program (ARPA). In addition to protecting the Amazon’s biodiversity, a WWF study concludes that ARPA’s system of well-managed and sustainably-financed protected areas is contributing to reduced CO2 emissions from deforestation.
WWF has been at the forefront of protecting the Amazon for over 40 years and is working across several sectors of the Brazilian government and civil society to establish broad support for Amazon rainforest conservation. Our strategies to halt deforestation include minimizing the negative impacts from cattle ranching, agriculture, and infrastructure projects, promoting sustainable use of natural resources and expanding the existing network of protected areas.