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Brazil pledges ‘largest restoration commitment ever made’

  • Proponents of the pledge believe the restoration will help the country meet climate change and conservation targets as well as Brazil’s economy through the development of more productive agricultural lands and new jobs.
  • Twelve million hectares of forest land is slated for restoration, along with 10 million hectares of farmland and pastures.
  • The announcement follows a recent uptick in deforestation in the country, which contains 60 percent of the Amazon Rainforest. Deforestation levels in 2015-2016 were up 75 percent over the three-decade low reached in 2012.

Brazil will restore 22 million hectares of land in what’s being called “the largest restoration commitment ever made by a single nation.”

“We are a country of forests,” said Rachel Biderman, director of the World Resources Institute (WRI) Brazil. “The national strategy for the restoration of forests and degraded areas positions Brazil as one of the global leaders in the development of a forest economy.”

Between now and 2030, Brazil plans to rehabilitate 12 million hectares of forest land that is degraded or deforested. The balance of the area will be restored and developed through the country’s Low-Carbon Agriculture Plan for crops, managed forests and pastures. Brazil made the plan public at the UN Conference on Biodiversity in Cancún, Mexico on December 3.

The announcement follows a recent escalation in deforestation of the country with the most rainforest on Earth. Despite substantial declines from peaks in the mid 1990s and in 2004, data from INPE, Brazil’s national space research institute, indicates that deforestation between mid 2015 and 2016 reached the highest levels seen since 2008.

The data indicate a 75 percent increase in deforestation levels between 2012 and 2016. Much of it occurred in the states of Mato Grosso, Pará, and Rondônia, important areas for beef and soy production.

Chart showing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, 2009-2016. Data source: INEP
Deforestation by state, 2010-2016 (data soure: INPE). Deforestation figures for the 2015-2016 year will be finalized several months from now after manual analysis of NASA Landsat images by INPE.
Mato Grosso is one of the states most affected by recent deforestation. Data from the Brazilian government (INPE) shows much of this has been focused in the northwestern part of the state, within particularly large, connected, undisturbed tracts of primary forest called Intact Forest Landscapes. In total, Mato Grosso lost nearly 350,000 hectares of tree cover from 2013 through 2015, according to INPE. Visuals and data via Global Forest Watch, location inset by Raphael Lorenzeto de Abreu via Wikimedia Commons (CC 2.5)
NASA / Google Earth satellite image showing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, São Miguel do Guaporé – State of Rondônia.
NASA / Google Earth image showing deforestation in Pará in the Brazilian Amazon.

Still, WRI is applauding the move.

“Brazil is once again demonstrating global leadership with its ambitious restoration announcement in Cancún,” Biderman said in a statement. “Restoring 22 million hectares –an area larger than Uruguay – will absorb huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, generate clean and plentiful water and boost agricultural productivity.”

In addition, she said that the healthier, more productive landscapes will generate new jobs and boost Brazil’s economy. According to WRI, Brazil’s Ministries of Environment and Agriculture teamed up to put together the deal.

Biderman added, “We have all the conditions – ecological, economic and material – to be internationally competitive, improving technical knowledge and creating jobs.”

Other organizations hope that Brazil is only the first of many countries to make such a commitment.

“Brazil’s restoration commitment represents a model of success for other nations. The commitment is made jointly by the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment, which aligns the interests of farmers, ranchers and conservationists,” said Miguel Calmon, senior manager for landscape restoration knowledge at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, in the statement released by WRI.

“Brazil’s announcement sends an important signal to the international community: ‘We are serious about improving the productivity of our land while fighting climate change,’” Calmon said.

Conservation groups hope that following through on the restoration work will help meet a variety of international climate change and conservation goals, including the Bonn Challenge, the New York Declaration on Forests, and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Calmon also pointed out that Brazil has almost doubled the amount of land for restoration in Latin America and the Caribbean laid out in Initiative 20×20, a regional agreement worth $1.15 billion in recovery funding. The group of 12 investors expects a return of about $23 billion in the next 50 years.