Brazil Forest Law changes threaten to send climate achievements up in smoke

Brazil Forest Law changes threaten to send climate achievements up in smoke

01 September 2011

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Brazil — Proposed changes to Brazil’s forest laws that will cut back protection and offer wide ranging amnesties for illegal deforestation threaten to undo the country’s impressive performances in cutting back emissions and protecting biodiversity.

“As it stands now, the forest law is a piece of legislation that looks to the future. It is the best possible legal framework for our adaptation to Climate Change through the conservation of ecosystems”, the leader of WWF’s Living Amazon Initiative, Claudio Maretti, told a recent seminar organized by NGO groups in Brasilia.

Over the last 10 years Brazil has set a highly positive example of conservation, not only by reducing the rate of deforestation in the Amazon but also by creating terrestrial protected areas, Maretti said.

In doing so, Brazil has legitimized its leadership of the group of developing countries at international meetings and assumed the right to raise with the developed world the question of fair sharing of costs and benefits in adapting to climate change and protecting biodiversity.

“The moment the forest law reform bill is approved, Brazil will lose that role” Maretti said. “The country will lose its power of influence over other countries and that will generate considerable impacts, especially on Brazil’s neighbours for whom Brazil has been setting a good example.”

13 times the emissions

The coordinator of the Nature Conservancy’s Climate Change Initiative, Fernanda Carvalho, told the seminar that to date Brazil’s efforts on deforestation and forest protection were responsible for it meeting 64 per cent of the carbon emission reduction goal it formally committed to before the international community

Carvalho, however, believes that the chances of achieving the remaining 36% will be drastically lessened by the alterations to the current forest law now being proposed.

“We had been unfolding a series of policies designed to control deforestation and then, in 2010, a discussion broke out about reforming the forest law legislation that seriously questions Brazil’s political capacity and will to achieve the goals it committed to as a signatory to the Climate Convention”, said Carvalho.

She also pointed out that a study by the Climate Observatory showed that allowable deforestation on smaller properties could release 25 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere – approximately 13 times Brazil’s total emissions in 2007.

Better exports than degradation

In deciding how to react to the proposed forest law changes, Brazil needs to decide what kind of development it wants to have.

WWF’s Claudio Maretti feels that the dichotomy ‘conservation versus development’ must be overcome and the economic potential of activities based on ecosystem services such as food production, medicines, cosmetics and others must be given due recognition.

“Brazil has to decide whether it wants growth achieved through degradation processes or to grow by recuperating and taking advantage of the potential of production allied to conservation”, said Maretti.

“Do we really want a model that exports degradation – a model whereby we lose more than we gain – or do we want to invest in enhancing productivity, in research and in sustainable use, and, in doing so, gain access to differentiated markets?”

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