Katharina Cavano l Palladium - Sep 30 2022
As the Amazon Rainforest Reaches a Tipping Point, Will Policy Help Tip it Back?

The findings are staggering, but to those in the know, they’re not surprising. A new report, Amazonia Against the Clock, has found that the rate of deforestation and high degradation has hit 26% across the Amazonia region, 90% of which is concentrated in Brazil and Bolivia.

Scientists from the Amazonian Network of Georeferenced Socio-environmental Information worked with the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin to produce the study as part of the launch of their global call to action of protecting at least 80% of the Amazon by 2025. Their target is a challenge, given that already only 74% of the rainforest remains.

“To meet that goal, we’d have to stop all deforestation today; it’s quite urgent,” says Palladium’s Marcio Sztutman, Nature Based Solutions Director in Brazil. But not all hope is lost according to Sztutman, as he points out that Brazil has some of the most sophisticated environmental regulation in the world. He explains that the country mandates that property owners in the Amazon protect 80% of their land among other measures, such as conserving water usage.

“The problem is that all of these regulations are reinforced with negative incentives and it’s clearly not working, because people continue to illegally deforest,” he adds. “If we really want people to comply with the law and existing regulations, we need positive incentives, not just negative. If someone is conserving the land or working sustainably, they should be rewarded with access to benefits, payments for ecosystem services, or access to technical assistance.”

Sztutman explains further that he believes that the first basic step in restoring and protecting the rainforest is to implement the existing policies and regulations. But he adds that they won’t truly work unless they are paired with additional, positive incentives that reward those using the land sustainably in ways that don’t degrade the soil or put further pressure on the forests. “We have demonstrated in the past that it’s possible to halt deforestation dramatically and it was largely due to public policy – we can do it again,” Sztutman notes. “But now we need to go further by promoting businesses that can deliver positive social and environmental impact in addition to generating cash flow.”

The report also prominently highlights the critical role of indigenous peoples in protecting the forests. Indigenous Lands and Protected Areas represent nearly 40% of the Amazon – these are areas that are legally protected and have rules around the way the land is used and who uses it. Outside of those protected borders are both private properties and undesignated areas, that are essentially in limbo, without any clear destination, and they’re susceptible to what Sztutman calls ‘land grabbers’ and rapid, illegal deforestation.

"If someone is conserving the land or working sustainably, they should be rewarded."

“The Indigenous peoples want to learn new ways to manage their land and meet the expectations of the socio, economic, and environmental conditions that surround them,” Sztutman notes. “They might know the forest better than everyone else, but they still have access to today’s technology and if they don’t have the right resources, they’re apt to copy the practices they see outside of their land.”

He stresses the importance of supporting Indigenous communities as they are and will continue to be a vital part of the Brazilian society. “There are over 250 different ethnic groups in Brazil, most in the Amazon. Each group has its own culture, history, desires, and they have the constitutional right of self-determination of the type of future they want for their territories”

Sztutman adds that historically most of the economic activities in the Amazonia region are based on unsustainable practices. He shares the example of timber extraction where illegal practices create unfair competition for companies that comply with regulations. “The Amazon is huge and there’s no one silver bullet that will solve the problem of deforestation, it will take a lot of investment and a broader alignment in the society, from investors, private sector to government policies, down to the populations that live on the land and outside of the forests.”

Whether it will be possible to reach the target of 80% in the next three years remains to be seen, but as a presidential election looms in Brazil, hopes are high for a renewed focus.

For a related article, check out 'Investing in the Lungs of the Planet: The Economic Potential of the Peruvian Amazon' or contact info@thepalladiumgroup.com for more information.