Seven years to save the Amazon

Feature story - 4 October, 2007
Seven years? It's a tall order but we have a cunning plan. Together with eight other national campaigning organisations, our Brazilian team have launched an ambitious proposal with a goal of zero deforestation by 2015.

Aerial view of the rainforest during the burning season in the Amazon, photographed during a flight from Itaituba to Alta Floresta.

The plan, published yesterday, sets out specific targets that could see deforestation drop gradually over the next seven years, pushing for a cut of 25 percent in the first year compared to figures for 2005/6. It's thinking on a massive scale, but we believe it can be done - with deforestation rates already falling and with a concerted effort it really could happen.

To achieve this, the proposal contains a few key elements, none of which are particularly radical but together with tough reduction targets add up to a powerful package. One is to create financial incentives that promote forest protection rather than forest destruction, so everyone is encouraged to make use of the forest in a truly responsible manner than has been the case up until now.

Another central plank of the proposal is to beef up the forest protection agencies so there is a hugely increased presence of state and government officials. With increased resources, they'll be able to monitor, control and inspect commercial activities properly to prevent illegal logging and land clearance for farming. One of the major challenges is to ensure that zero deforestation is achieved while still guaranteeing the social-rights of indigenous and local communities who live in and around the rain forest.

None of this is going to be possible without full involvement from the government and companies, but at least they're listening. Present at the launch in Brasilia today were Minister of Environment Marina Silva and the governors of several Amazon states, including Blario Maggi. As well as being governor of Mato Grosso, he is also the head of Grupo Amaggi, a major soya exporter and signatory too the two-year soya moratorium.

Of course, there's a price tag for all this - an estimated one billion reais (over 384 million euros). Weighed against the value of the rain forest in terms of biodiversity and the livelihoods of the people who depend on it, it looks like small change, particularly when it includes international contributions. Because, given the rainforest's role in moderating climate change, it's something we all have an interest in preserving: up to one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions are down to deforestation, making Brazil the fourth largest polluter in the world.

Talks to hammer out a successor to the Kyoto Protocol begin this December in Bali, and we want to see deforestation included in the discussions. If that happens, responsibility for forest protection won't fall just on forest nations, and rich countries will need to contribute as well. For daring zero deforestation proposals like this one to work, international co-operation is absolutely essential.


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