Brazil's Amazon conservation efforts worth $100 billion
May 29, 2008

A plan to protect large expanses of the Amazon rainforest could reduce carbon emissions by 1.1 billion tons by 2050, according to a study presented in Bonn, Germany at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Assessing the carbon stored in forests protected under the Brazil's Amazon Region Areas Program (ARPA) -- a program created in 2003 that seeks to preserve some 40 million hectares of Amazon rainforest by 2012 -- researchers at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil and the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts estimate that areas protected by the initiative hold some 4.6 billion tons of carbon. Forecasting the expected forest loss if the designated areas were not protected, the researchers calculate that the program will avoid some 1.1 billion tons of carbon emissions. By some estimates, including the British government's Stern Review which pegged the long-term cost of one ton of carbon dioxide emitted today at $85 ($312 per ton of carbon), the emissions reductions could be worth more than 100 billion dollars.

Tropical countries have argued that they should be compensated in the form of carbon credits for reducing emissions from deforestation. One mechanism, known as REDD for "reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation", won tacit approval at last year's climate talks in Bali but Brazil has so far objected to most market-based mechanisms for forest carbon credits. Brazil has instead asked for international donations to establish a fund for protecting parts of the Amazon.

The trees of the Amazon rainforest store 90-140 billion metric tons of carbon, according to calculations by scientists, but deforestation accounts for about 70 percent of Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions primarily result from forest conversion for agricultural expansion -- notably beef and soy production -- in the Amazon.

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After a steep drop in deforestation rates since 2004, widespread fires in the Brazilian Amazon (September and October 2007) suggest that forest clearing may increase this year. All told, since 2000 Brazil has lost more than 60,000 square miles (150,000 square kilometers) of rainforest -- an area larger than the state of Georgia or the country of Bangladesh. Most of this destruction has been driven by clearing for cattle pasture and agriculture, often in association with infrastructure development and improvements. Higher commodity prices, especially for beef and soy, have further spurred forest conversion in the region.

An interview with Dr. Daniel Nepstad: Amazon rainforest at a tipping point but globalization could help save it June 4, 2007
The Amazon basin is home to the world's largest rainforest, an ecosystem that supports perhaps 30 percent of the world's terrestrial species, stores vast amounts of carbon, and exerts considerable influence on global weather patterns and climate. Few would dispute that it is one of the planet's most important landscapes.

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