Challenges and Opportunities for the GCF in Brazil in 2017: In the midst of a rise in deforestation, we can commemorate advances and improvements in the REDD+ landscape in Brazil.

Mariano Cenamo & Fernanda Barbosa, IDESAM

The Brazilian Amazon contains the largest area of tropical forest on the planet. Spanning more than 4.1 million km2, it accounts for 60% of the nation’s land and is home to nearly 20 million people. The region, however, generates less than 8% of Brazilian GDP and faces serious social and environmental problems. Its economy basically depends on the extraction of natural resources and minerals and agribusiness, which to date has led to the substitution of nearly 20% of its original forest cover into pasture and other agricultural cultivation.

Photo credit: IDESAM

Over the past ten years, the Amazon has generated the largest contributions to date of any country to combat climate change. In this period over 4 GtCO2 were not released into the atmosphere, an amount equivalent to what the European Union emitted in 2013 (4.4 GtCO2e). As such, Brazil gained substantial distinction and international recognition.

However, preliminary data show that deforestation in 2016 grew by 7.989 square kilometers, 29% more than in 2015. This is the largest increase in the rate of deforestation since 2008, when a spike in devastation led the government to strengthen its control and block access to credit for agriculturalists in the most critical municipalities, according to the List of Priority Municipalities of the Amazon.

The high in 2016 is not an isolated incident: between 2014 and 2015 deforestation grew by 24%. These two consecutive increases take the country off track from its international commitments and the positive trend which had been taking place between 2004 and 2012. Reducing deforestation is expensive and the investment capacity of the Federal Government and of the states of the Amazon are seriously compromised with the financial crisis Brazil has been facing since 2014.

The mechanism called Emissions Reduction from Avoided Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) represents our best opportunity to leverage resources and deal with the social and economic challenges of the region. With REDD+, projects that conserve the forest are able to secure funding. Values can leverage investments in states and municipalities, creating a favorable environment for the participation of the private sector and a new direction toward an economy with low carbon emissions.

“It is worth re-stating that the states of the Amazon are going through a critical moment of economic recession and could be utilizing the resources of REDD to support activities that prevent and control deforestation,” noted Antônio Luiz Andrade, Deputy Executive Secretary of the state of Amazonas.

For this, however, a radical improvement in the funding strategy is needed in order to put the mechanism in place in Brazil. To date just over R$ 3 billion have been obtained as payment for REDD+ results. Funds, primarily from the governments of Norway and Germany, were allocated by the Amazon Fund and administered by the BNDES. The amount, though, represents less than 6% of the R$ 70 billion that could be raised by Brazil through REDD+ (using the reference value of $5 per ton of de CO2e used by the Amazon Fund in its contracts).

“REDD consists of a suite of mechanisms to consolidate a low carbon economy in the Amazon and is fundamental for achieving near zero rates of deforestation,” stated Alberto Tavares, director of the Company for the Development of Ecosystem Services of Acre. He added that “REDD+ promotes the diversification of revenue sources, supports gains up to the jurisdictional scale, and contributes to a continual and sustainable flow of investments.”

As the national coordinator for the Governors Task Force on Forests and Climate (GCF), Idesam has worked closely with the states of the Amazon to ramp up their dialogue with the Federal Government to support the raising of funds for state programs. This work has occurred through the Forum of Secretaries and the Forum of Governors of the Legal Amazon. We recently supported the scheduling of a meeting between state governments and the Ministry of Environment in Brasilia to re-establish the dialog about REDD+ in the Amazon- see national coverage and by the MMA.

We can celebrate that the political context is much more favorable with the entrance of the new Minister of Environment José Sarney-Filho. Despite the negative results of an increase in deforestation (caused by the previous government), the Minister’s mandate has been total support to the states and we hope for a very positive work plan for the year 2017. In recent events, shown by national media, Mato Grosso and Acre, Minister Sarney-Filho declared his support to the governments of Acre and Mato Grosso in advancing their REDD+ fundraising, reflecting an important signal to push forward with lasting policies and programs for the control of deforestation and promotion of sustainable development. The states of the Brazilian Amazon also note advances in the political context, as shared by Rubens Brito, Director of Environmental Management at SEMARH in Tocantins: “after 4 years at the GCF, the state of Tocantins faced challenges and new experiences, matured, and is now highlighted for its public policies and legal mechanisms for the conservation of forests and Cerrado, valuation of environmental assets, climate policies and sustainable environmental regulation.”

Other proof of the concrete advances in the national REDD+ agenda has been the beginning of meetings of the National Commission on REDD+ (CONAREDD+) and its Thematic Advisory Committees (CCTs) for (i) Financing, (ii) Federal Pact and (iii) Safeguards, with the objective to accelerate the regulation and implementation of REDD+ in Brazil. Active participation in these entities has become a priority in state agendas. As stated by Rubens Brito, “for 2017 the continuing challenges are for Jurisdictional REDD+ Program, Analysis and Valuation of our primary assets: Carbon, Water, Biodiversity. Besides this, we have another important agenda which is to consolidate the autonomy of the states in discussions about the national REDD+ strategy.”

The challenges for 2017 are to coordinate actions with civil society and state governments of the Amazon to achieve the improvements that need to be made in the governance structure and fundraising strategy of the National REDD+ Strategy. For this it will also be necessary to support the strengthening and organization of the Forum of Secretaries and Governors and ensure the qualified participation of state government representatives in CONAREDD+ and thematic advisory meetings in which the foundations for the regulation of REDD+ in Brazil will be defined.