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Trail-blazing schemes show potential of REDD+ in the Brazilian Amazon

October 11, 2010

By Guy Edwards and Emily Kirkland (Brown University)

In the jungle of acronyms and arguments that characterize efforts to confront climate change, it is hard to beat the complexities of REDD+. However, in the Brazilian Amazon a number of pioneering schemes are offering a way out of the melee.

REDD+ is shorthand for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, plus forest regeneration and rehabilitation. REDD+ provides developing countries with financial incentives to protect their forests and improve sustainable forest management.

The destruction of forests accounts for around 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions with most deforestation occurring in the developing world. In Brazil, deforestation represents over 50% of the country’s emissions.

Following progress made in Copenhagen with the completion of a draft text, the high number of references made in the Copenhagen Accord and the advances made in Tianjin last week, experts remain optimistic that a REDD+ agreement could be on the cards.

The Copenhagen draft recognizes good governance and the engagement of indigenous peoples and local communities as key elements of any potential REDD+ mechanism, which is considered an important, yet still insufficient, step forward.

While the outcome of the international negotiations and potential policy framework remains ambiguous, the following pilot programmes in the Brazilian Amazon give a sense of how REDD+ might look on the ground.

Can Brazilian attempts to protect Amazon offer a way forward for REDD+?

There are dozens of different anti-deforestation programmes underway in the Brazilian Amazon that could prove compatible with REDD+. Five programmes in particular merit special attention. All five work with individuals and families to reduce deforestation in return for cash payments, an approach known as payments for ecosystem services which overlaps closely with REDD+.

Proambiente is a federal programme operating in 136 communities in all nine Amazon states. Proambiente works with local communities to set targets for deforestation with progress monitored regularly and monthly payments disbursed to families if targets are met. Farmers are provided with technical assistance including training and equipment for sustainable fishing and agroforestry. These alternate sources of income supplement the monthly payments and support farmers to reduce their dependency on unsustainable agricultural techniques.

Proambiente is currently funded through the federal budget, with some support from abroad. It represents a potentially strong match with REDD+. Unfortunately, inadequate funding has been a problem with payments sent to half as many families as was previously expected.

Bolsa Floresta is a state programme run by the Environmental Ministry of Amazonas State in partnership with the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation. It provides around $30 a month to families that sign a zero deforestation agreement.

Bolsa Floresta also gives grants to community groups and invests in local development projects. It is just one element of the state’s progressive forestry policies spearheaded by the Green Tax Free Zone established in 2003, which has led to the reduction of deforestation by 70% in Amazonas between 2003 and 2008.

The Green Free Tax Zone includes education programmes, tax incentives and an expanded network of protected forest reserves. Bolsa Floresta receives funding from a special state fund, donations from major corporations like Brandesco Bank, and through sales of carbon offsets abroad. Customers at Marriott Hotels have the option of paying a few extra dollars a night to offset the emissions associated with their stay which helps fund Bolsa Floresta at the Juma Reserve in Amazonas. Together Proambiente and Bolsa Floresta represent a crucial testing ground for REDD+.

The three other programmes – Campo Cidadão in Pará, Avoided Deforestation on Small Rural Properties in the Vicinity of the Transamazon Highway, and the Acre State Carbon programme – are all still in the design phase.

All three will eventually offer payments to farmers who commit to reducing deforestation. Campo Cidadão is funded through the state government, while the Acre State Carbon programme hopes to get funding directly from international corporations like British Sky TV. The Acre State programme is also aiming to obtain contributions through the Amazon Fund, where as the Transamazon project is relying entirely on the Amazon Fund.

The Amazon Fund was created in August 2008 with the aim to raise funds for Brazilian REDD efforts and to finance initiatives to reduce deforestation. The Fund’s resources are used across a broad spectrum of activities including the management of protected areas, monitoring and inspection, sustainable forest stewardship, land use planning and reclaiming of deforested areas. Norway has already committed a donation of around US$130 million, while Germany has committed US$ 33 million.

Where’s the beef?

All five programmes mentioned are predominantly aimed at subsistence farmers. Yet the amount of deforestation by subsistence farmers is eclipsed by the cattle industry, which is responsible for 70% of large-scale forest loss in the region.

The Aliança da Terra focuses on the cattle sector by educating ranchers about sustainable techniques and offering them incentives for both reforestation and reduced deforestation while providing a special certification scheme for sustainable producers. Aliança da Terra currently receives funds through private donations, with some support from international donors like Finland, and it may well be eligible for REDD+ funding in the future.

A pressing challenge will be to combine the success stories of some of these sub-national schemes and their potential as part of a broader national REDD policy in order to ultimately make a long-term difference in the Brazilian Amazon.

Brazil’s National REDD Strategy

In 2009, Brazil voluntarily established a 38.9% emissi
on reduction target to be reached by 2020. As most of Brazil’s emissions come from deforestation, Brazil hopes to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 80% and 40% in the Cerrado by 2020 to make this voluntary target a reality.

The main component of the Brazilian REDD policy is the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Amazon (PPCDAm). The Plan involves thirteen ministries and twenty agencies and focuses on three areas: setting deforestation reduction targets, integrated action for deforestation control and prevention, and the Amazon Fund. After five years of implementation, the government reports an impressive reduction in deforestation with recent estimates suggesting deforestation has fallen from 27.4 square kilometres in 2004, to 7 thousand square kilometres in 2009 (#).

It would appear that state level responses combined with the federal government’s long overdue action on deforestation are having an impact. The greater level of collaboration between Amazonian states and Brasilia stems in part from the promotion of the Amazon Fund. In order to receive financial resources from the Fund states are required to create plans for preventing deforestation. By late 2009, seven of the nine states in the region had prepared their plans, which contributed to federal and state governments establishing a task force to define a joint REDD proposal.

Although there have been some notable success stories, a multitude of challenges remain. Confronting a wounded yet still powerful anti-environment lobby will be a priority. It will also require resolving issues like land tenure and revising forestry laws, improving monitoring, governance and institutional capacity, securing the conviction of environmental offenders, preventing illegal occupation of public land and promoting new sustainable alternatives.

But the signs are certainly hopeful. The federal government has forwarded a bill to Congress for the establishment of a National Programme for the Payment of Environmental Services and this year’s presidential election has focused on the environment to an unprecedented degree. Enthusiasm and attention in Brazil are high. And in the Amazon, innovative programmes are perhaps beginning to take root.

# The Brazilian REDD Strategy: How the country has achieved major deforestation reduction in the Amazon (2009) Ministry of Environment, Brazil

 

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