Colombians Sue Government To Protect Amazon Rainforest

National Peace Unleashed War On Forests

By Naomi Larsson, Huffington Post

Arvey Alvear Daza’s life has been dominated by fear for most of his 37 years. A farmer in Caquetá, a district in southern Colombia, his land on the northwestern edge of the Amazon rainforest placed him in the middle of a decades-long conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and the Colombian government.

“You were aware of things that happened to people ― dying, disappeared, being hurt,” Alvear Daza says. “We had to exist one way or another and learn to survive, to live day by day.”

Like thousands of those who lived in the rebel-occupied countryside, his movements were dictated by the guerrillas ― from having curfews imposed on his working day to rigid restrictions on the size of his farm so the forest cover would protect the FARC from government air raids.

Two years ago, things began to change. Colombia signed a historic peace deal with the FARC, ending a 52-year civil war that saw about 260,000 people killed and millions more displaced. Alvear Daza says he feels a sense of calm after so many years of turmoil.

Unfortunately, this transition has had other consequences. In two years of post-conflict Colombia, a large power vacuum has formed in vast rural areas where the guerrillas relinquished control, leaving previously inaccessible areas vulnerable to destruction. Record levels of deforestation have followed, driven ― in part, at least, experts say ― by armed groups illegally clearing forests to grow cash crops, such as coca.

In response, a group of young Colombians sued the government at the start of the year, stating that its failure to reduce deforestation threatens their fundamental rights, including their rights to a healthy environment, food and water.

These issues are all interconnected when it comes to deforestation. On a local level, the loss of tree cover drives soil erosion, making land less fertile, clogging waterways with sediment and worsening flooding. Globally, rainforests do a vital job of absorbing carbon, preventing greenhouse gases from accumulating in the atmosphere and warming the planet. Once the trees are cut down, however, they release the stored carbon, accelerating climate change. Deforestation is believed to be responsible for about 10 percent of heat-trapping global emissions.

forest conservation

 

Colombia lost more than 1.04 million acres of tree cover in 2017, according to the latest data published by the World Resources Institute (WRI) ― a 46 percent rise in deforestation from 2016, which was more than double the rate of loss from 2001 to 2015.

WRI says land speculation and the illegal clearing of forests for coca, mining and logging by armed groups that have emerged since the civil war ended has contributed to this dramatic increase in tree cover loss. The government’s foreign investment push has only intensified this scramble for land, according to a recent report by Global Witness, an international nongovernmental organization.

Forest clearance is out of control, says Carolina Gómez of the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute, which monitors the health of Colombia’s biodiversity.

“In some regions, we have documented some of the highest deforestation rates for Colombia in its history,” she told HuffPost. “It is very sad. Before, the guerrillas were very strict in the use of natural resources, so places had some protection. The government should have continued doing that, but now there’s nobody there.”

In central Bogotá, just a few streets away from a polluted, traffic-heavy main avenue, some of the 25 plaintiffs who brought the deforestation claim against the government meet up ― bright-eyed young men and women talking animatedly about Colombia’s environmental future.

forest conservation Colombia

They are in the airy offices of Dejusticia, a research and advocacy organization that coordinated the group’s lawsuit in its desire to do something practical to hold the government to its international commitments to reduce deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.

Inspired by similar cases led by young people in Europe and the U.S., Dejusticia sought out those living in Colombian cities most vulnerable to the effects of climate change who were actively interested in protecting the environment, and asked them to be part of the lawsuit.

“We’re the first generation to live in peace in Colombia, but we are destroying our most biodiverse ecosystem,” says 26-year-old Gabriela Eslava, a lawyer for Dejusticia and one of the plaintiffs.

Those involved in the lawsuit acknowledge the tensions in appearing to link the FARC with land conservation. “We didn’t want to make the impression that we were pro-war,” says 26-year-old Valentina Rozo, one of the plaintiffs who lives in Bogotá. “We never wanted to thank the guerrillas, but it was clear that we had to show that paradox […] to make it clear that it was the government’s fault.”

Read The Full Story About Colombia and Amazon Rainforest Conservation

deforestation and climate change

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. It supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

Europe Losing Appetite For Palm Oil

EU Targeting Biofuel Applications

The latest European Union plan to ban palm oil has been defeated, but the anti-palm oil forces in Europe have only just begun.

The different lawmaking arms of the EU — the European Commission, Parliament and the Council — recently reached a compromise on the bloc’s revised renewable energy regulations, known as the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). Like all EU compromises, it is messy, but with one element of certainty: the proposed ban on palm biofuels has been rejected.

RED is of significance to Indonesia. The regulation effectively subsidizes renewable fuels for transport, including Indonesian palm oil, and has increased demand for Indonesian exports in recent years.

palm oil plantation deforestation
This led to palm oil taking market share from less competitive EU oilseeds, such as rapeseed.  The most recent evidence of this is claims of dumping made by European biofuel producers against Indonesia, which was rejected at the World Trade Organization.

There is furious lobbying around the RED revisions. European farmer and Green groups wanted palm oil banned. This was supported by members of the EU Parliament and several EU governments.

The European Commission knew a ban was unworkable from a trade policy perspective: it opposed the plan. Some EU member states’ governments, pursuing ongoing trade relations with Indonesia and Malaysia, also opposed the ban.

The final compromise juggles the interests of European farmers, the EU’s trade interests, and a general desire to phase out food/feed-based biofuels.

Green parliamentarians hailed it as a victory, stating palm oil was being “phased out” by 2030. This has been widely reported in the media: it is not accurate.

The RED text contains no specific phase-out of palm oil. Palm oil is not even mentioned. The proposed ban on all palm oil biofuels from 2021 has disappeared. Forbes reported that the EU Parliament “surrendered” in the negotiations and backed away from banning palm oil.

deforestation and global warming
Instead, the text says that in 2019 the commission will finalize a methodology to determine which biofuels — and their production processes — can be considered “high risk” in terms of greenhouse gas savings. This will incorporate both indirect land-use change (ILUC) and high carbon stock (HCS).

On paper, all crops — European crops included — will be subject to the same measures.

Any “high-risk” biofuels — imported or European — will have their use frozen at 2019 levels, and the commission will then recommend a phase-out strategy for high-risk biofuels, commencing in 2024 and ending in 2030.

But “high risk” is yet to be determined. The ‘high carbon stock’ criteria may be carried over from the original RED. Schemes such as RSPO, RED and ISCC already comply if that is the case.

deforestation palm oil orangutans
ILUC is the true wildcard here. The ILUC debate has been going on for nearly a decade. The concept has been criticized repeatedly for its lack of a robust methodology.

But it’s not just oil palm growers that dislike ILUC. European farmers — including offshoots of Deutscher Bauernverband (German Farmers’ Association) — have been critical of ILUC. This is because ILUC is one of the main arguments used by the Greens against feed- and food-based biofuels, whether in the EU or elsewhere.

After the European summer, the commission will begin work on defining what “high risk” biofuel feedstock means for purposes of the biofuel policy.

Additionally, Europe is moving to regulate palm oil used for foodstuffs.  As a first step, the European Parliament is considering a motion calling for controls on agricultural imports from developing countries.

Palm oil has been singled out despite being well behind other commodities — such as beef, soybean and maize — in terms of its deforestation footprint. This is to be expected from the European Parliament; a lopsided vote against palm oil is almost certain.

Following that, the EU will finalize the “EU Action Plan” on deforestation. This action plan will seek to introduce a new regulation aimed at curbing palm oil imports. Ideas being floated include a trade agreement and licensing system for palm oil — similar to the VPA-FLEGT model currently used for Indonesian timber product exports. Indonesian officials and business groups have been quick to push the idea of using Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification as the basis of such an agreement.

These types of policies often serve a dual purpose. They protect the domestic industry with a regulatory barrier, and fall in line with the EU’s euro-centric notion of sustainable development.

For nearly a decade, palm oil has been a target for European agriculture, lawmakers and non-government organizations. There is nothing about the revised RED policy that changes this, even though the ban was defeated. Those in the industry need to be ready for the policy battles to continue.

The EU and Palm Oil

deforestation and climate change

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. It supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

North Korea Planning Reforestation

Deforestation Earns Death Sentence

Between 1990 and 2005, North Korea lost 25 percent of its forest cover, or around 2 million hectares, which is the highest rate among countries in East Asia.

Cultivation, logging, and natural disasters have all put pressure on North Korea’s forests. During the economic crisis of the 1990s, deforestation accelerated, as people turned to the woodlands to provide firewood and food. Deforestation has led to soil erosion, soil depletion, and increased risk of flooding. Deforestation also presents a serious threat to forest ecosystems, especially for several endangered species, such as Amur leopard, the Asiatic black bear, and the Siberian tiger.

Siberian tiger conservation

To reverse these problems, North Korea and South Korea will hold meetings this week on bilateral economic projects such as border transport and the reforestation of the North, following agreements reached during their April summit.

On July 4, the two sides will hold a meeting on forest policies and possible projects regarding reforestation of North Korea, where the landscape remains affected by the destruction of the Korean War (1950-1953) and the famine in the 1990s that led to many forests being turned into agricultural areas.

deforestation and global warming

The South Korean government-run Korea Forest Service (KFS) is set to push ahead with a project aimed at analyzing deforestation and broader environmental trends in North Korea.

In the first project of its kind in 10 years, the KFS’s National Institute of Forest Science (NIFoS) will examine trends in deforestation by monitoring degraded forest land, the organization said in a request for funding seen by NK News.

By collecting up-to-date information on the DPRK’s forests, NIFoS said, the South Korean government can “support effective policies for inter-Korean cooperation.”

The new economic map of the Korean peninsula policy aims to build three inter-Korean economic belts on the peninsula: an energy-resource belt in the eastern coast, an industry-logistics and distribution-transportation belt on the western coast, and an environmental tourism belt on the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

The deforestation study plans are one of a number of recent initiatives by Seoul aimed at exploring broader inter-Korean economic cooperation: February saw the South Korean government-run Rural Research Institute (RRI) release plans to explore DPRK-ROK agricultural cooperation projects.

In addition to its inter-Korean objectives, NIFoS said assessing changes in North Korea’s deforested land could also help assess the feasibility of a UN REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) project in the North.

The REDD+ is a mechanism developed by parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to mitigate climate change and support reforestation efforts in developing countries.

North Korea reforestation

NIFoS will use satellite imagery provided by the German company RapidEye of North Korean forests in dormant and growing stages. Research conducted in 1999 and 2008 will serve as reference points, and a subcontractor is being sought to analyze images of areas photographed between 2016 and 2017 and to visit border regions to conduct field surveys.

Land in North Korea will be classified according to three types: forested, deforested and non-forest lands.

Deforested land, according to NIFoS, applies to areas which, under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, require immediate reforestation.

NIFoS plans to release the results of the research and hold a seminar for North Korean experts.

The proposal was uploaded on Monday for potential bidders on the website of South Korea’s Public Procurement Service (PPS), and the registration deadline is March 26.

North Korea has in recent years placed an increased emphasis on the problem of deforestation and environmental issues, following major damage to the country’s land following years of famine and drought.

Kim Jong Un has repeatedly emphasized the importance of reforestation and afforestation, even declaring a “war against deforestation” in late 2015. The following year, signs appeared in the DPRK threatening individuals who cut down trees with execution.

In February, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the country had implemented “the first-phase tasks for the forest restoration campaign.”

reforestation and carbon capture

“After the construction of the land- and manpower-saving tree nursery, a model in the work to put the sampling production on a scientific, industrial and intensive basis, mother tree nurseries were built or remodeled in different parts of the country to produce billions of saplings,” KCNA said in an English-language report.

The North has also developed an “information service program for managing forest resources,” KCNA reported in April 2017, and a month earlier opened the Forest Science College at Kim Il Sung University.

deforestation and climate change

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. It supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

Wildlife Sanctuary Revived Through Reforestation

Couple Invests 26 Years In Reforestation

Deforestation threatens life as we know it. A husband and wife team in India has drawn a line in the dirt to promote reforestation and biodiversity.

Pamela Gale Malhotra and her husband, Anil Malhotra, own Sai Sanctuary, the only private wildlife sanctuary in India and have been replanting and protecting forests and wildlife since it’s foundation in 1991. Today, SAI Sanctuary covers more than 300 acres of wildlife habitat that is home to more than 200 endangered species of plants and animals, including Asian elephants and Bengal tigers.

The Western Ghats of India is a biodiversity hotspot and many areas in Kodagu region have been declared as UNESCO sites. Unfortunately, this sacred land is under siege by a burgeoning human population and the associated consumption necessary to support billions of people in India.

deforestation and biodiversity India

“When we first came here, most of the lands that were sold to us, were abandoned lands,” Pamela told Great Big Story. “Abandoned rice fields, coffee, and cardamom fields as well. A lot of deforestation had taken place. And that took a lot, a lot of care and energy and time and years to bring it back.”

The part of India where the sanctuary is located, Kodagu district, has experienced a dramatic decrease in forest cover – from 86 percent in the 1970s to 16 percent today. Pamela explained that this has disastrous effects on rainfall patterns and water supply not only in the district, but throughout the south of India.

The forests are playing a vital role in regulating the climate and biodiversity conservation despite providing livelihood to millions of people living in and around the forests.

The forests of the Western Ghats region of peninsular India have undergone significant transformations over the past century. The nature, extent and causes of these transformations have been due to deforestation, overgrazing, forest fire, rapid urbanization, and encroachment for agriculture.

forest conservation India

The couple is piecing back together the environment by ensuring that the forests can provide shelter for the animals, and the animals can help keep the forests healthy.

“We both feel a tremendous amount of joy when we walk through the sanctuary,” said Pamela. “I’ve never felt this kind of joy in anything else that I’ve done in my life.”

reforestation project India

“When we first came here, most of the lands that we bought were abandoned lands,” said Pamela Malhotra. “It had abandoned rice fields, coffee, and cardamom fields as well. I remember walking through the forest, you wouldn’t hear anything but the sound of your own feet. Now, the place is alive with sound.”

Pamela hopes that the forest continues to be protected and expanded. Read the full story about the SAI Sanctuary.

Watch The Video About Rainforest Restoration In India.

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. It supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

Brazil Can Save Amazon And Economy

Rainforest Destruction Not Enriching Brazil

Many scientists blame deforestation, generated in large part by agriculture, for global climate change and disrupted rain patterns in the Amazon. Clearing Amazonian forest to create new pastures is illegal now in Brazil, but a cash-strapped government is struggling to enforce the law.

The Brazilian Amazon demonstrates that environmental destruction can be overcome. Meanwhile, this destruction continues at a frightening speed, which threatens the people of the Amazon, the country and the world.

deforestation and global warming

Since Brazil began monitoring deforestation in 1988, 166,000 square miles have been razed through 2017. Deforestation peaked in 1995, when a swath the size of Hawaii, about 11,000 square miles, was turned to pasture. That rate has slowed, but 2,548 square miles were cleared just last year.

This document indicates the possible ways to end deforestation in the region, with environmental, economic and social benefits for the country. Prepared by the Zero Deforestation Working Group – composed of experts from the organizations Greenpeace Brazil, ICV, Imaflora, Imazon, IPAM, Instituto Socioambiental, WWF Brazil and TNC Brazil, it has the most current scientific literature on forests, climate and agriculture.

Zero Deforestation is possible. It’s vital. No other nation has cleared as much as Brazil. There were 55 million hectares cleared between 1990 and 2010, more than double Indonesia, ranked second. Altogether, in the Amazon alone, 780,000 km² of native vegetation has been lost, an area more than twice the size of the territory of Germany. The rate of destruction over the last two decades has been 170 times faster than that registered in the Atlantic Rainforest during Colonial Brazil. The loss was accelerated between 1990 and 2000, with an average of 18.6 thousand km2 deforested per year, and between 2000 and 2010, with 19.1 thousand km2 lost annually and 6 thousand km2 between 2012 and 2017.

Amazon wildlife

About 20 percent of the original forest was already cut down without generating significant benefits for Brazilians and for the development of the region. On the contrary, there are several losses. Pollution from fires, for example, each year causes deaths, increased cases of respiratory diseases and changes in the regional climate that can bring great risk to productivity in the field. The government itself, through its research agencies, already indicates that it is unnecessary to continue deforestation of the Amazon, since it estimates that it is possible to shelter all agricultural production in the areas that are already open.

Several Amazon governors agree. The recent past confirms this thesis. Measures implemented between 2005 and 2012 have cut deforestation rates in the region by about 70 percent and indicate that the elements needed to achieve ZD are present. Among them are the agreements to end deforestation in agricultural production, increase the efficiency of livestock farming in the areas already cleared, the creation of protected areas (Conservation Units and indigenous lands) and compliance with the Forest Code. These policies, several of which are addressed in this document, if applied not only to the Amazon but also to other biomes, would be able to produce, well before 2030, the end of deforestation in the country.

It is clear that deforestation did not generate wealth for most Amazon inhabitants. The municipalities of the Amazon are among the lowest HDI (Human Development Index) and SPI (Social Progress Index) of the country. They follow the so-called “boom-collapse” logic.

At first, easy access to natural resources produces an explosion of wealth in the municipality. This wealth, however, is concentrated in the hands of few and runs out in a few years. The end result is swollen cities, with poor infrastructure, no quality jobs and a concentrated income. The additional contribution of each year of deforestation to the economy is negligible. The average area cleared per year between 2007 and 2016 (7,502 km2) has the potential to add about R$453 million annually in gross value of agricultural production (i.e. production volume multiplied by the price of products). This figure represented only 0.013 percent of the average Brazilian GDP between 2007 and 2016.

The old argument that it is necessary to clear new areas of forest to increase agricultural production does not hold up. There is already a huge deforested area that has been poorly used. Much of it is degraded pasture. According to the Brazilian government, in 2014 there were 10 million hectares of degraded pastures and pastures with forest regeneration in the Amazon. In the country 70 percent of the total pasture area is degraded or in the process of degradation. In fact, when measures against deforestation were more effective, agricultural production continued to grow, as farmers invested in increasing land productivity.

For example, ten years after the Soy Moratorium – which began blocking farmers who planted in newly deforested areas – in 2006, planted area increased from 1.2 million hectares to 4.5 million hectares due to planting in pasture areas. The large amount of poorly exploited areas in the region results to a large extent from deforestation from land grabbing, through the invasion of public lands, often using labor that is degrading or analogous to slave labor.

In 2016, for example, at least 24 percent of deforestation occurred in public forests not yet earmarked and in areas with no information. This land grabbing is also linked to very low-efficiency cattle ranching: 65 percent of the deforested area in the region is occupied by pastures, with an average stocking rate of less than one head of cattle per hectare. Therefore, the alleged economic imperative of deforestation is a false matter.

Politicians, agribusiness representatives and experts declared on October 31, 2017 to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper that it is possible to expand Agribusiness without deforesting.

Yes. Brazil can double grain production by 2025 by occupying half of the 74 million hectares of degraded pastures that are not being used by extensive livestock grazing. Technologies that are available are also allies for increase productivity and allow for agricultural expansion without clearing new areas,” said Marcos da Rosa, president of the Brazilian Association of Soy Producers.

If the economic benefits of deforestation in the Amazon are questionable, their socio-environmental and economic losses are not. For example, air pollution from forest fires, coupled with deforestation, has the potential to cause hundreds of early deaths each year. The drop in the number of fires between 2001 and 2012, the period in which Brazil most reduced the rate of deforestation, resulted in a decrease in air pollution and may have prevented the early death of 400 to 1,700 people per year in South America. Not only from a health point of view, but also from an economic point of view, forest fires resulting from deforestation can cause serious damage.

In 1998 alone, a year under strong El Niño effects, Amazon states sourced a loss of almost US$5 billion (9 percent of Amazon’s GDP). The Public Health System of Brazil (SUS) alone had expenses with respiratory health treatment in the order of US$ 11 million. Agriculture in the region, that year, suffered a loss of $45 million.

Zeroing deforestation, therefore, also means saving lives, reducing government expenditures, and mitigating private economic losses. Deforestation also enhances rural violence and loss of public assets, exposes Brazil to the risks of commercial boycotts and is the main source of greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil – deforestation in the Amazon alone contributed with about 26 percent in 2016.

The end of deforestation in the Amazon, in addition to contributing to the fight against climate change worldwide, will be fundamental for agricultural productivity in the future. There is increasing evidence that climate, not only regional or global, but mainly local, depends on the forest intact. In a grain-producing region or in areas with large settlements, the existence of forests (private or public) is necessary to dictate the future path of agricultural production.

A good example of forests as “irrigators” of agricultural production comes from the upper Xingu region of Mato Grosso. Over the past few years, clearing of the forest around the Xingu Indigenous Park resulted in a local temperature rise of around 0.5°C. This may be behind the severe droughts that hit the region. Were it not for the existence of the Xingu Park, this increase in temperature and drought would be even greater. Therefore, maintaining a mosaic of forests keeps the irrigation system running for everyone.

Disease and Death: Pollution from fires associated with deforestation causes premature diseases and deaths. The reduction of deforestation/forest fires in the Amazon averaged from 400 to 1,700 early deaths from respiratory diseases per year between 2001 and 2012 in Latin America. The decline in deforestation has reduced the rate of premature births and underweight infants.

Loss Of Public Patrimony: Land grabbers deforest to demonstrate possession of public lands. Illegal land grabbing affects approximately 7 million hectares, valued at R$21.2 billion.

forest tribes and forest conservation

Social Conflicts: By August 2017, a thousand areas with land conflicts have already been recorded, affecting close to 94 thousand families and resulting in 47 murders in the Legal Amazon. The total number of murders in the Amazon in 2017 has already surpassed that recorded in all of 2016.

Risk Of Boycotts: Environmental campaigns led companies to establish the Soy Moratorium, which boycotts purchases of deforested areas after 2006. And boycotts may increase. France, for example, has already announced that it will phase out imports of commodities that contribute to deforestation in the world, including the Amazon.

Increased Climatic Risks: Deforestation in the Amazon accounted for 26 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 2016. With every 10 percent reduction in forest cover, the Xingu basin, for example, has a 50mm reduction in evapotranspiration and a 0.5 degree C increase in temperature. The worsening climate change can lead to a reduction of 1.3 percent of national GDP in 2035 and up to 2.5 percent in 2050. The loss of agricultural GDP would be even more serious: between 1.7 percent and 2.9 percent in 2035 and from 2.5 percent to 4.5 percent in 2050.

The country has successfully tested and implemented measures to control deforestation in the Amazon. Since the creation of the Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Amazon (PPCDAm) in 2004, the rate of deforestation has fallen by about 80 percent up to 2012 – something that was previously considered by some decision makers as an impossible task. For example, based on the monitoring of deforestation by real-time satellites – through the Deter and SAD systems – the government focused, during this period, on policies in critical areas.

The government created protected areas in regions targeted for illegal land grabbing. Between 2002 and 2009, for example, almost 709 thousand square kilometers of protected areas were created, contributing to the decline in deforestation in subsequent years.

The National Monetary Council established credit denial to properties embargoed due to illegal deforestation. Credit restriction, as of 2008, helped to curb deforestation, especially in municipalities of livestock production. However, much still needs to be done to readjust the credit criteria to stimulate good practices. In addition, environmental campaigns, market restrictions and lawsuits have stimulated companies’ commitments against deforestation associated with the production of soy and beef.

Measures that contributed to the decrease in deforestation between 2004-2012:

2003-2006: The expansion of protected areas in the Amazon by 59.6 million hectares resulted, in this period, in the reduction of deforestation. It is estimated that 37 percent of the reduction observed between 2004 and 2006 occurred due to protected areas.

2006: Soy Moratorium. The voluntary agreement of the industry against the commercialization of soy associated with deforestation in the Amazon resulted in a reduction of deforestation area for soy cultivation. In 2004, up to 30 percent of soy planted in the Amazon came from recent deforestation. Today, that figure is only 1.5 percent.

2008: Surveillance directed towards municipalities with high deforestation. The intensification of surveillance in the 43 municipalities listed among those that most deforest avoided the deforestation of 355,100 hectares per year between 2009 and 2011.

2008: More efficient penalties. The application of immediate penalties, such as seizure of assets and embargo of activities, has a greater deterrent effect than the imposition of fines. In addition, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Central Bank and markets all employed embargoes in the fight against deforestation.

2008: Credit restriction Researchers estimate that R$ 2.9 billion (US$ 1.4 billion) in rural credit was not allocated between 2008 and 2011 due to the restrictions imposed by Resolution 3545, approved by the National Monetary Council, in order to reduce financial incentives for deforestation.

2009: Some of the slaughterhouses pressured by environmental campaigns and legal processes stopped buying from farms that cleared illegally (cattle agreement and TAC) and deforestation fell by 6 percent on farms that registered immediately in the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR).

2006-2013: Deforestation was 10 percent lower in property registered in CAR in Pará and Mato Grosso in relation to the period prior to the existence of CAR.

Unfortunately, the decline in forest destruction rates observed between 2005 and 2012 has been halted. The average rate of deforestation between 2013 and 2017 was 38 percent higher than in 2012, the year with the lowest rate since the beginning of the measurements. This increase in deforestation after 2012 occurred due to high impunity for environmental crimes, setbacks in socio-environmental policies, flaws in cattle agreements, encouragement of land grabbing of public land and the resumption of large infrastructure projects.

The scenario ahead does not point to significant reductions in this rate for the coming years. Currently, there are several measures to weaken forest protection approved or proposed in the Executive Branch and in the National Congress, including approved amnesty for land grabbers, and the reduction of protected areas, the weakening of environmental licensing, as well as the halting of the demarcation of indigenous and quilombola lands.

In addition, if additional measures are not taken, deforestation can remain high in the next decade, driven by demands for agricultural products and lack of political commitment and government and market inefficiency to enforce the necessary control. The rate of deforestation could reach levels between 9,391 km2 and 13,789 km2 until 2027 if the same historical relation between cattle herd and total deforested area is maintained.

Measures that enabled the increase in deforestation between 2012 and 2016:

Impunity for environmental crimes is still high: The risks of punishment and losses associated with the crime of deforestation are still low, making enforcement ineffective: between August 2008 and July 2013 only 18 percent of the total deforested area was embargoed – in the same period approximately 95 percent of the deforestation in the Amazon was illegal. The judgment of the infractions is slow and most of the fines applied are not paid.

deforestation and global warming

Environmental policy setbacks: With the new Forest Code, Congress and government conceded amnesty to 47 million hectares illegally deforested in 2012; reduced 2.9 million hectares of Conservation Units between 2005-2012; reduced the number of environmental analysts allocated to the Amazon by 40 percent in ICMBio (2010-2016) and 33 percent in Ibama (2009-2015).

Flaws in cattle agreements: Half of the slaughterhouses, responsible for about 30 percent of the slaughter capacity in the Legal Amazon, did not sign the agreements. In addition, companies that have signed the agreements have no control over indirect producers (breeding and rearing). Delays in audits facilitate fraud to cover illegal deforestation on farms. While nearly 60,000 ranchers in the Amazon adopted sustainable practices in the last decade, according to government officials, about 330,000 haven’t. Last year, ranchers cleared a swath the size of Delaware. Brazil is home to the largest cattle herd in the world earmarked for meat—214 million head. The Amazon alone is home to 87 million head, which is 30 million more than in all of Argentina and nearly the size of the total U.S. herd, 90 million, including dairy cows, according to U.S. figures. Ranchers could boost productivity quite a bit. On average, each Amazonian head of cattle gets two acres to munch on, while ranchers raise two head per acre in other parts of Brazil, a ratio similar to the U.S. And here in the rain forest, the animals are smaller, feeding on blades of low-quality grass. At a slaughterhouse run by JBS SA in Pará state, the average animal weighed a slim 550 pounds, 150 fewer pounds than cows raised in feedlots in other parts of Brazil where the company also has plants.

Amazon deforestation and beef

Many ranchers in the Amazon sell fresh pastures at 10 times what they paid for land with tree cover. Others say they can’t absorb the high cost of sustainable farming.

Grabbing of public lands continues to be lucrative: The government does not reclaim invaded public lands and approved laws to facilitate regularization of lands invaded. Under Law No. 13,465/2017, subsidy for illegal land grabbing in the Amazon could reach R$ 21 billion.

Large infrastructure projects: Deforestation increases in the surroundings of large infrastructure projects because it increases immigration. Risks are underestimated and/or mitigating measures are not designed and/or implemented. This was the case of the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Plant: in a hydroelectric construction scenario and with high immigration in the region, mitigating measures in the surroundings were not implemented.

After decades of trial and error, successes and failures, advances and setbacks, there is enough knowledge in Brazil about how to achieve ZD with social, economic and political responsibility. It is necessary to discourage deforestation and at the same time support the sustainable use of the forest, seek recognition and positive incentives for forest conservation and compensate best agricultural practices. The implementation of this vision depends on the government, businesses, rural producers, and also on manifestations of society, which elects representatives, demands and finances public policies and buys and invests in companies.

The end of deforestation in the Amazon will result from four short-term actions:

  • The implementation of effective and perennial environmental public policies
  • Support for sustainable forest uses and improved agricultural practices
  • The drastic restriction of the market for products associated with new deforestation
  • The engagement of voters, consumers and investors in efforts to eliminate deforestation

Reducing deforestation in a context of scarce public resources will depend, to a large extent, on increasing the effectiveness of punishment for environmental crimes. The current Director of the Department of Forests and Deforestation Control in the Ministry of the Environment, in his doctoral thesis, has already proposed more effective procedures. Some are already in practice and have already generated positive results, such as the increase in the number of legal notices and embargoes applied by IBAMA, especially through remote actions.

The legal notices are sent by mail after crossing maps of deforestation detected by satellite images, the maps of real estate obtained from the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR) and authorizations for deforestation. The cost of each remote legal notice (R$600) is 4.66 times lower than that based on field surveillance (R$2,800). This measure may increase the likelihood of a crime being notified by 192 percent, according to Jair Schimitt. The government can use satellite imagery to monitor if the embargoed areas are being used and, thus, prosecute violators. To reduce trial time, it is still necessary to adopt automated administrative processes, as is already done in some Courts of Justice. Such a measure would increase the likelihood of cases going to trial by 169 percent, according to Schimitt. The effective collection of fines would generate a large volume of resources to intensify the surveillance and implementation of protected areas.

It is even more important that the government broaden and strengthen the punishment of companies buying and financing products from illegally deforested areas. After all, it is more effective to punish a few companies than the thousands of farmers they finance or source from. A good example was the Shoyo operation, which fined Santander Bank R$ 47.5 million for financing the planting of soybeans in embargoed areas. Another was the Carne Fria (literally “Cold Meat”) operation, which investigated 15 slaughterhouses and an exporter of live cattle bought from embargoed areas on 24 farms. Ibama crossed public information of the animal transit guides (GTA) with the embargoes. Intervention by the Federal Public Prosecutor´s Office was necessary for the government of Pará to release the GTA data. Unfortunately, the Pará government continues to hamper access to such data. Therefore, states truly committed to combating deforestation should provide full data transparency.

Meanwhile, after Operation Cold Meat, the Minister of the Environment apologized to the producers and declared that the operation was inopportune and that the acting superintendent of Ibama in Pará, who participated in the set-up of the operation, was dismissed. These reactions reinforce the importance of society shielding the environmental organs from political influence.

One of the key roles of surveillance is to curb the theft of public lands. As already seen, at least 24 percent of the deforestation verified today has its origin in land grabbing of public lands. Public authorities must intensify operations against organized squatters, who, in addition to destroying forests, carry out other crimes, such as money laundering, which provide for harsher penalties than violations against the environment. Another strategy to combat illegal land grabbing and the speculative deforestation is the effective collection of the Rural Territorial Tax (ITR). Such a tax was created in the 1970s to curb speculation in unproductive land. The collection could increase 100 times based on analysis done in Pará (from about R$5 million to R$500 million per year) using rural real estate maps (CAR) and satellite images to identify land use. ITR’s revenues could be reinvested primarily in rural areas in the form of incentives for forest conservation and the adoption of better agricultural practices in areas already deforested.

By closing the frontier for illegal occupation and collecting the ITR effectively, the public authority would also signal to farmers that the increase in production should occur in areas that are already deforested. In addition to the environmental benefit, combating illegal land grabbing would help reduce conflicts that occur over dispute for public lands.

deforestation and jaguar conservation

In the Amazon there are about 70 million hectares of public forests that have not been destined yet to a specific use, part of which has already been cleared. It is essential that public authorities create protected areas on these public lands, including indigenous lands and Conservation Units for various uses such as tourism, scientific research and use of forest products (e.g. extractive reserves). Where the type of public land allocation still needs to be better studied, the government should institute Areas under Provisional Administrative Limitation (ALAP), while conducting studies to decide future allocation. The creation of ALAP, which prevents any use of the areas, is especially relevant around regions that will receive infrastructure projects that quickly attract immigrants and illegal land squatters.

If the creation of new protected areas results in a decrease of deforestation, the opposite is true. Ending forest protection, as a result of actions to reduce the size of protected areas, can motivate illegal deforestation. In the Jamanxim National Forest in Pará, the announcement of the federal government’s decision to reduce the protected area could result in a significant increase in deforestation in the coming years. Therefore, public authorities should not reduce the size or degree of protection of Conservation Units.

The urgency of eliminating deforestation requires that federal and state governments have bold goals and coordinate their activities. Some states have already set targets to reduce deforestation that are bolder than that of the federal government. For example, the governor of Pará declared that the state could eliminate net deforestation by 2020. Mato Grosso, in a strategy that unites efforts from the government, companies and civil society support, has set the goal of eliminating illegal deforestation by 2020.

However, just as at the federal level, the implementation of these state plans falls short of what is needed due to political resistance and budget constraints. Deforestation in Mato Grosso in recent years is still high. The federal government should revise its goals, include an end to deforestation, and act in coordination with states to avoid the sense that illegal deforestation will be tolerated until 2030, considering NDC’s goal of eliminating illegal deforestation by 2030.

Extraction of forest products yielded an average R$3 billion based on 2015 and 2016, according to IBGE, of which R$1.8 billion came from logging and R$537 million from açaí13 extraction. However, this potential is poorly explored regionally, since much of the production is exported to other regions instead of being processed in the Amazon.

Production is also often associated with predatory practices (for example, about half of the logging is illegal). It is therefore essential to support best practices in producing these products by strengthening and improving the quality of existing programs and plans to reduce deforestation and increase income associated with forest conservation, including the National Plan for Biodiversity Products Supply Chain and General Policy for Minimum Price for Biodiversity Products (PGPMBio), National Program for Strengthening Family Agriculture (PRONAF) and the National Policy for Technical Assistance and Rural Extension (PNATer). These programs have the potential to serve populations in Conservation Units such as extractive reserves and Agrarian Reform settlement projects. Such programs should be linked to centers of scientific research and development as is done with other products of national agriculture (such as Embrapa Grape and Wine, Embrapa Beef Cattle and Embrapa Milk Cattle).

In addition, infrastructure planning for the Amazon needs to be articulated with local development plans, with the objective of stimulating sustainable production chains that are already underway. Infrastructure plans in the Amazon are currently focused on large energy and transport projects that have little positive impact on local development plans and contribute to the expansion of the agricultural frontier and real estate speculation that stimulate deforestation. Policies to support forest conservation could be strengthened with state and municipal resources that reward forest conservation. The Green ICMS Tax, implemented by Pará and Mato Grosso, transfers additional tax resources to municipalities with better conservation performance. These experiences could be adopted by other states.

State governments also have the power to influence the allocation of more resources to conservation in private areas. They can, for example, accelerate the application of the Forest Code, which provides for the offsetting of forest liabilities in the same biome, creating an Environmental Reserve Quota (CRA) market. By this system, the rural property that conserves forest beyond the legal minimum (Legal Reserve) can sell conservation quotas for those that need to compensate for the excessive deforestation in other properties. This quota market can reach R$5.8 billion in Mato Grosso alone. CRAs could guarantee protection of up to 3.6 million hectares, if used to offset the entire Amazon Legal Reserve deficit.

However, a study by Esalq and Imaflora points out that there are 12 million hectares of forests on private land that are not protected by the Forest Code (i.e. in addition to the required Legal Reserve and Permanent Protection Area). Thus, discounting the potential of CRAs, there are still 8.4 million unprotected hectares. To encourage the protection of these areas it would be advisable to create means of payment for environmental services for landowners who conserve forests beyond legal protection.

Given that conservation of the Amazon contributes to the country’s climate balance, therefore, for agricultural production and energy generation, it is fair to allocate additional federal resources to the region. One way to do this would be to increase allocations from the Participation Funds to states and municipalities. Today, the federal government transfers R$50 billion a year to the states through the FPE (State Participation Funds).

If only 2 percent of the FPE resources were distributed according to a forest protection criterion (states with more protected areas would receive an additional one), about R$1 billion would be allocated to forest conservation. Of these, approximately R$770 million would be destined to the Amazon biome, which hosts 77 percent of the continental area of the Brazilian Conservation Units. This approach is consistent with the new PPCDAm approach, which provides for the elaboration of economic, fiscal and tax standards and instruments.

Increasing production and efficiency of the activities in the deforested areas will maintain the socioeconomic contribution of this sector without new deforestation. Some progress has already been made, but the cattle industry is an obstacle. For example, its potential does not reach 34 percent. If it rose to 52 percent (which would still be low), livestock would meet the demand for beef and, consequently, grain, by 2040 without the need for additional forest conversion and still avoid the emission of 14 billion tons of CO2.

The most powerful policy to support the adoption of best agricultural practices is the rural credit and other subsidies of the federal government’s Agriculture and Livestock Plan, which is financed with taxes from all Brazilians. In 2017/2018, this plan totaled around R$ 200 billion17. However, only 1.1 percent of rural credit is earmarked exclusively for low carbon agriculture through the ABC (Low Carbon Agriculture) Program. To encourage a more rapid adoption of more sustainable practices, the federal government needs to adopt two main measures:

  1. Prioritize rural credit only for municipalities that reduce deforestation and thus encourage rural producers, mayors and governors to engage against deforestation; and
  2. Establish a transition goal (for example, a maximum of 10 years) so that all rural credit is allocated to ABC alone. In doing so, the taxpayer would encourage that the entire system of research, development, and technical assistance focus on techniques compatible with reducing deforestation and increasing production with low greenhouse gas emissions. Irrespective of promoting more efficient use of the cleared areas, to reduce deforestation globally we will need to reduce food waste and change food practices (Box 5).

Increasing production in areas already deforested is the most obvious way to continue increasing agricultural income without deforestation, especially with cattle.

Up to 14 percent of the emissions generated by agriculture in 2050 could be avoided by better managing the use and distribution of food, according to a new study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). Between 30 percent and 40 percent of all food produced on the planet is never consumed, because it deteriorates after being harvested and during transportation or because it is thrown away by traders and consumers.

Irrespective of the increase in production only in areas already deforested, it will also be necessary to reduce the consumption of animal protein globally. As the world population grows and productivity rates of agricultural production reach the limit, a greater amount of land would be required to produce if current conditions of production and consumption are maintained. This model is unsustainable, and experts (including the FAO, UN Food and Agriculture Organization) have recommended more efficient use of agricultural products and food with a greater emphasis on the use of plants (instead of animal protein) and alternative sources of animal protein (e.g., edible insects need six times less feed to produce the same amount of bovine protein).

A 2015 study by Imaflora illustrates the Brazilian case of the nutritional inefficiency of production. In 2006, agriculture produced 35 times more protein than cattle production did, although pastures occupy 2.6 times more area than agriculture. The 2006 harvest would meet the protein needs of 2.1 billion people, while meat production would feed only 85 million. In addition, today, much of this land used for agriculture is intended to provide food to fatten animals for human consumption and not eat the vegetable protein itself. The shift to diets less dependent on animal protein and more sustainable production systems is necessary and requires the promotion of a just transition from the current model of production and consumption respecting the social, economic and cultural differences of each country.

Companies that buy or finance agricultural products should reduce the market for products associated with deforestation and support the adoption of better agricultural practices. They may do so voluntarily or because of financial risks, market blockages, or legal pressures from investors or consumers, which are becoming more and more common. The various initiatives to monitor corporate commitments and legal action against buyers and financiers of deforestation mean that risks are increasing and will increase further as many commitments have targets for 2020. Recent experiences show that when companies monitor the origin of products and boycott purchases from deforested areas, producers stop deforestation.

Therefore, companies that claim to be committed to zero (absolute or liquid) deforestation – whether they are processors, such as slaughterhouses, retailers, supermarkets, or industries such as leather – must trace the source of all their products that can be associated with deforestation, such as meat, milk, soy, corn, cocoa and palm oil, among others. For example, in the case of the Amazon, slaughterhouses and supermarkets must trace the cattle from the breeding and raising farms that supply the finishing farms from which they buy.

Likewise, supermarkets that have announced policies aligned with zero deforestation in the acquisition of beef also need to implement their systems and monitor the entire supply chain. Pilot projects show the technical and financial feasibility of this complete tracking of livestock – for example, the total cost would be around ten cents per kilo of meat for the final consumer. This type of initiative could scale up with the participation of more public and private actors, as happened with the successful program to combat foot-and-mouth disease.

Buyers also should demand that half of the slaughterhouses that haven’t committed against deforestation – with slaughtering capacity equivalent to 30 percent of the total Amazon region – engage in the agreements, and that supermarkets that have not yet published policies to control deforestation associated with cattle production, such as large Amazon networks like DB, Líder and Cencosud, do so immediately. This would reduce unfair competition from those who are already restricting purchases from deforested areas.

The adhesion of producers will be as big as the support of the supply chain of their business. Thus, companies should broaden their initiatives to support environmental regularization and increase productivity. For example, governments and companies in the livestock supply chain could help train about 2,000 people needed to improve livestock productivity.

The government also plays a crucial role in strengthening company agreements by providing public information to help monitor farms and other land uses. The livestock supply chain, for example, could be freed from deforestation if the Ministries of Agriculture and Livestock (MAPA) and the Environment (MMA) and the state health defense agencies made the CAR data available (in the case of MMA) and the animal transit guides (in the case of states). Slaughterhouses, supermarket chains and other interested parties could crosscheck this data to identify the origin and destination of the livestock. It is likely that governments will release this data only after more pressure from consumers and companies committed to forest conservation, as there is resistance in the rural sector against increased surveillance and transparency, as was evident in the reactions against the dissemination of CAR data and against IBAMA’s Operation Cold Meat.

The total and active transparency of other data generated by governments (municipal, state and federal) is also fundamental in monitoring supply chains that act as potential drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. Among this information are the Forest Origin Documents and/or Forest Transport Guides and the Mapping of Forest Degradation in the Brazilian Amazon (DEGRAD).

Opinion polls show that most Brazilians support forest conservation and, in fact, at various times society’s participation and pressure have favored the conservation of the Amazon, including recent campaigns against policies that facilitate destruction. However, systemic political corruption and the lack of prioritization of environmental issues by governments make it difficult for the population’s demands to be met. In this context, social pressure must be even stronger and continuous against attempts to weaken forest protection, such as easing environmental licensing, reducing the protection of Conservation Units, halting the demarcation of Indigenous Lands and extending the term in order to legalize land grabbing.

However, it is not enough to reject destructive policies; it is necessary to support projects that promote the sustainable development of the region – for example, the Sustainable Amazon Plan, launched in May 2008, which provides for the valorization of sociocultural and ecological diversity and the reduction of regional inequalities. The population may also demand that their taxes be used only for policies that favor conservation and best practices, such as those described in previous sections. In addition, to give political sustainability to conservation, citizens should elect politicians who understand the value of forests to the wellbeing of the population and the economic development of the country. Every Brazilian and a global citizen, as a consumer, can help transform companies into conservation allies through purchases and investments (several of which are listed on stock exchanges and others financed by public resources). Corporate markets play an important role.

The Soy Moratorium has shown that rural producers changed rapidly when European soybean consumers announced that they would not buy soy from deforested areas. In addition to ceasing deforestation, they began to invest in production in areas already deforested. In the last decade, the pressure of the national and international market, which, even buying less than what is consumed internally, also managed to push the largest companies to adopt systems of socio-environmental control for livestock production. Also under pressure from civil society, the largest retail chains had to adopt policies for sourcing cattle aligned with zero deforestation. Thus, initiatives that assess and bring visibility to commitments to conservation are essential to channel attention from society and promote changes in policy and business. Along the same path, it is essential that countries investing in the country and in their businesses also demand criteria aligned with zero deforestation and respect for local communities.

After a broad mobilization by society, in 2015 a bill was passed in the National Congress that defends the end of deforestation in Brazilian forests. The project was supported by more than 1.4 million Brazilians and is still being processed in the Chamber and Senate. It is essential that society remain mobilized so that the project is discussed and the actions that build this path become a reality.

The Zero Deforestation Working Group includes, Greenpeace, Imaflora, Imazon, Instituto Centro de Vida, Instituto Socioambiental, IPAM Amazonia, The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund,. The group has been supported by Climate and Land Use Alliance, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and Norad.

For more information, visit IPAM.

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com Together, we can stop deforestation and preserve biodiversity.

Colombian Government Ordered To Protect Forests

Top Court Demands Halt To Amazon Deforestation

By Anastasia Moloney, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Colombia’s highest court told the government to take urgent action to protect its Amazon rainforest and stem rising deforestation, in what campaigners said was an historic moment that should help conserve forests and counter climate change.

In their ruling on Thursday, the judges said that Colombia – which is home to a swathe of rainforest roughly the size of Germany and England combined – saw deforestation rates in its Amazon region increase by 44 percent from 2015 to 2016.

deforestation and global warming

“It is clear, despite numerous international commitments, regulations … that the Colombian state has not efficiently addressed the problem of deforestation in the Amazon,” the supreme court said.

The ruling comes after a group of 25 young plaintiffs, ranging in age from seven to 26, filed a lawsuit against the government in January demanding it protect their right to a healthy environment.

The plaintiffs had said the government’s failure to stop the destruction of the Amazon jeopardized their futures and violated their constitutional rights to a healthy environment, life, food and water.

Bogota-based rights group Dejusticia, which supported the plaintiffs’ case, said the verdict meant it was the first time a lawsuit of this kind had been ruled upon favorably in Latin America.

“The Supreme Court’s decision marks an historical precedent in terms of climate change litigation,” said Camila Bustos, one of the plaintiffs and a researcher at Dejusticia.

In its ruling, the court recognized Colombia’s Amazon as an “entity subject of rights”, which means that the rainforest has been granted the same legal rights as a human being.

“The ruling states the importance of protecting the rights of future generations, and even declares the Amazon a subject of rights,” Bustos said.

The court ordered the government – both at the local and national level – along with the environment and agriculture ministries and environmental authorities to come up with action plans within four months to combat deforestation in the Amazon.

The Amazon’s destruction leads to “imminent and serious” damage to children and adults for both present and future generations, the judges said.

The ruling stated that forests were being felled to make way for more grazing and agricultural land, as well as coca crops – the raw ingredient for cocaine – illegal mining and logging.

reforestation and carbon capture

Deforestation is a key source of greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change, which damages ecosystems and water sources and leads to land degradation, the court said.

“Without a healthy environment, subjects of law and living beings in general will not be able to survive, let alone safeguard those rights for our children or for future generations,” the ruling said.

The lawsuit follows a surge in litigation around the world demanding action or claiming damages over the impact of climate change – from rising sea levels to pollution.

Reporting by Anastasia Moloney @anastasiabogota, Editing by Robert Carmichael. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.

Read The Story About Forest Conservation in Colombia.

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

Malaysia, Indonesia Denounce Ban On Palm Oil In Biofuels

Short-Term Gains Driving Biodiversity Into History

Found in everything from shampoo to donuts, palm oil is now the most common vegetable oil in the world—and also one of the world’s leading deforestation drivers. It’s also being used to fuel our automobiles. The controversial product has given new meaning to the old campaign sloga, “put a tiger in your tank.” In fact, the palm oil industry is driving the highly endangered Sumatran tiger and other species towards extinction.

In defense of our planet’s vanishing biodiversity, European lawmakers approved draft measures last Wednesday to reform the power market there and reduce energy consumption, with the plan including a ban on the use of palm oil in motor fuels starting in 2021.

palm oil plantation deforestation

Malaysia, the world’s second-largest palm producer, said on Monday it would work with other producing countries to voice “strong concerns” to the World Trade Organization, following the European Union’s move to back a ban on using palm oil to make biofuels. Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil, joined the outcry against the ban, which is aimed at preserving massive tracts of tropical rainforests and countless endangered species that rely on them for habitat. The palm oil industry alone has caused massive slash and burning of millions of acres of rainforests to create palm oil plantations at the expense of biodiversity and the future of our planet.

Palm oil is extracted from the fruit of the oil palm tree, Elaeis guineensis, which thrives in humid climates. Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce nearly 90 percent of the world’s palm oil, called the move discriminatory and said there should be fair treatment for all vegetable oils.

A large portion of European palm oil imports is used to make biofuels, giving the industry’s top two producers cause for concern as they fear overall demand will fall. Palm oil exports are a key source of revenue for Malaysia and Indonesia. The European Union is their second-biggest market after India.

deforestation climate change

Malaysia’s trade minister called the move a “regressive step which will fuel further uncertainty surrounding global trade,” according to a statement on Monday evening.

“Malaysia will intensify collaboration with other palm oil producing countries to consider more concerted efforts to voice our strong concern before the various committees under the WTO,” said Mustapa Mohamed, minister of international trade and industry, in the statement, adding that the ministry would raise the issue with two committees in March and April.

One huge source of global warming emissions associated with palm oil is the draining and burning of the carbon-rich swamps known as peatlands. Peatlands can hold up to 18 to 28 times as much carbon as the forests above them; when they are drained and burned, both carbon and methane are released into the atmosphere—and unless the water table is restored, peatlands continue to decay and release global warming emissions for decades.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the burning of peatlands releases a dangerous haze into the air, resulting in severe health impacts and significant economic losses. Each year, more than 100,000 deaths in Southeast Asia can be attributed to particulate matter exposure from landscape fires, many of which are peat fires.

Beyond its global warming and human health impacts, palm oil production also takes a toll on biodiversity and human rights. Only about 15 percent of native animal species can survive the transition from primary forest to plantation. Among the species vulnerable to palm oil expansion are orangutans, tigers, rhinoceros, and elephants. Furthermore, palm oil growers have also been accused of using forced labor, seizing land from local populations, and other human rights abuses.

palm oil and orangutans

The impacts of palm oil production have begun to draw a response from both governments and the private sector in recent years.

There has been significant movement from Southeast Asian governments to address palm oil impacts, though there is still much to be done. In 2010, Indonesia established a moratorium on new concessions for oil palm, timber and logging operations on primary forests and peatlands. In addition, Indonesia has responded to worsening haze conditions by calling for a halt to clearance and drainage of peatlands, and for the restoration of those already drained. Malaysia has also begun to act to protect some of its forests, though its protections thus far have not been as strong as Indonesia’s.

endangered species conservation and forest conservation

On the private-sector side, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)was formed to bring oil producers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other stakeholders together to improve the sustainability of palm oil production. However, current RSPO standards fall short in important respects. For instance, while primary forests are protected under RSPO regulations, secondary, disturbed, or regenerating forests are left unprotected. Peatlands are also given limited protection under RSPO guidelines. So “RSPO-certified” does not necessarily mean “deforestation-free.”

PR firm climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com Together, we can stop deforestation and preserve biodiversity.

REDD+ Offers Hope In Battle Against Deforestation

Innovative Conservation Models Can Refine REDD+

In December 2015, with the signing of the Paris Agreement, the nations of the world reached agreement on a historic, collective and comprehensive approach to combat climate change. The primary goal of the agreement, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and try to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees C. Within that agreement is a recognition of the critical role of forests, including actions to halt and reverse the rate of deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, which have contributed up to 20 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions.

deforestation and global warming

To assist countries in these actions, the agreement includes a framework of policies and incentives for reducing deforestation and forest degradation and increasing carbon storage in forests through conservation and sustainable management. This is known as REDD+.

REDD+ has evolved over a decade of discussions, research and negotiations to become a key piece of the newly adopted climate architecture. It is flexible by design, as it recognizes the significant differences across countries in terms of societal and governance structures, histories, laws, economies, and ecological and environmental factors. It is intended to support the necessary economic transitions and shifts to sustainable landscape management as part of a country’s low carbon development. To ensure that it contributes to the environmental integrity of the climate regime, REDD+ requires a national commitment—not isolated projects. No more foundational decisions are needed for REDD+ to be fully implemented.

The adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015 solidified the foundation for REDD+. The agreement referenced, in a single paragraph, the entire body of decisions, including the objectives, rules, guidelines and guiding principles for REDD+. The focus now is on actions to implement and support REDD+ initiatives. To do so, a solid understanding of REDD+ and the Paris Agreement is needed. We must understand what REDD+ is, in a manner that is accessible to policy makers, scientists and civil society and in a form that is completely consistent with the UNFCCC decisions and agreements.

The broad intent of REDD+ is to help countries shift to low-emissions development pathways by increasing the value of healthy forests relative to other land uses.

Greenhouse gas emissions are at an all-time high. If emissions are not reduced, it will be nearly impossible to hold global warming to below 2 degrees C. One of the best ways to address this challenge is to keep trees standing, as healthy forests are one of the largest store houses of carbon. And unhealthy forests—those that have been degraded or deforested—are the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, after the burning of fossil fuels.

reforestation and climate change

An approach called REDD+ is one of the most promising means for keeping trees standing in developing countries. “REDD” stands for “reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation.” The thought leaders behind REDD+ agreed that incentives are necessary not only to reduce emissions by tackling the drivers of forest loss, but also to avoid emissions and increase storage by taking proactive measures to conserve and restore forests.

The aim of REDD+ is to slowly halt and reverse forest cover and carbon loss in developing countries. The broad intent of REDD+ is to help countries shift to low-emissions development pathways by increasing the value of healthy forests relative to other land uses. Achieving and sustaining the objectives of REDD+ requires the transformation of economic activities within and outside of the forests, often referred to as the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation.

REDD+ was born in 2005 but its importance was not fully and formally recognized until December 2015, when the 197 parties to the UNFCCC adopted the Paris Agreement—a landmark global pact to curb climate change. Recognizing REDD+ in the Paris Agreement was seen as a means to highlight and validate the system of incentives for developing countries to conserve forests in the context of poverty reduction and economic development. It also filled a gap left by the Kyoto Protocol, which went into effect in 2005.

Prior to the Paris Agreement, the Kyoto Protocol was the main tool to achieve the objective of the UNFCCC–reducing greenhouse gas emissions and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. However, the protocol did not include emissions caused by the unsustainable exploitation and destruction of forests in developing countries. With the Paris Agreement in place, REDD+ is now a key piece of the new climate architecture adopted by every country in the world. No additional foundational decisions are needed for REDD+ to be fully implemented. The focus now is on implementation and support of REDD+.

reforestation and carbon capture

REDD+ In A Nutshell

REDD+ is a voluntary approach for developing countries and includes five activities:

  •  Reduce emissions from deforestation;
  • Reduce emissions from forest degradation;
  • Conserve forest carbon stocks;
  • Sustainably manage forests; and
  • Enhance forest carbon stocks.

REDD+ includes four components:

  • A national strategy or action plan;
  • A national forest reference level as the basis for accounting the results of REDD+ activities;
  • A national forest monitoring system; and
  • A system for reporting how all of the REDD+ social and environmental safeguards are being addressed and respected throughout the implementation of the activities.

Countries implementing REDD+ pass three phases:

  • The development of national strategies or action plans, policies and measures, and capacity-building;
  • The implementation of national policies and measures, as well as national strategies or action plans, that could involve capacity building, technology development and transfer, and results based demonstration activities; and
  • Results-based actions that should be fully measured, reported and verified.

Financial support for REDD+ may come from a variety of sources, such as the public and private sectors and bilateral and multilateral agreements. This funding may include payments for emissions reductions achieved through the implementation of REDD+ activities. These are called results-based payments.

How are unintended negative social and environmental impacts avoided?

The 2010 Cancun Agreements established a set of seven social and environmental safeguards when implementing REDD+ activities, as well as guidance for systems to provide information on how countries are implementing the safeguards. Countries should start providing a summary of that safeguard information to the UNFCCC once they begin implementing REDD+ activities and periodically, thereafter.

deforestation Tanzania and Kenya

Doing so is a means for reducing or eliminating the potential negative impacts REDD+ could have on social and environmental values, beyond GHG emissions and associated climate change. The social safeguards promote and support good governance, respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous people and members of local communities, and the full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders in the development and implementation of REDD+ activities. The environmental safeguards promote and support the conservation of natural forests and biological diversity. This helps ensure that REDD+ actions are not used for the conversion of natural forests, but are, instead, used to incentivize the protection and conservation of natural forests and their ecosystem services, as well as to enhance other social and environmental benefits.

The 2015 Paris Agreement highlights the role forests and other carbon stores (known as “sinks and reservoirs”) should play in meeting global and national climate change mitigation goals. In particular, Article 5 of the agreement highlights the role of forests in curbing climate change and effectively recognizes all of the existing guidance for REDD+ previously agreed to by the COP. This article states that all nations should take action to conserve and enhance the role of “sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases,” which include biomass, forests and oceans as well as other terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems.62 Nations are encouraged to take action to implement and support the existing REDD+ framework as set out in related guidance and decisions.63 This can be done in several ways, including through results-based payments. As specified in Article 4 of the Paris Agreement, REDD+ activities will also contribute to the goal of achieving a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com Together, we can stop deforestation and preserve biodiversity.

Agriculture A Major Contributor To Deforestation, Climate Change

Soil Depletion Releasing Carbon Into Atmosphere

By Ellen Wulfhorst, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Agriculture has contributed nearly as much to climate change as deforestation by intensifying global warming, according to U.S. research that has quantified the amount of carbon taken from the soil by farming.

Some 133 billion tons of carbon have been removed from the top two meters of the earth’s soil over the last two centuries by agriculture at a rate that is increasing, said the study in PNAS, a journal published by the National Academy of Sciences.

Global warming is largely due to the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from such activities as burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees that otherwise would absorb greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

deforestation and climate change

But this research showed the significance of agriculture as a contributing factor as well, said Jonathan Sanderman, a soil scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts and one of the authors of the research.

While soil absorbs carbon in organic matter from plants and trees as they decompose, agriculture has helped deplete that carbon accumulation in the ground, he said. Widespread harvesting removes carbon from the soil as do tilling methods that can accelerate erosion and decomposition.

“It’s alarming how much carbon has been lost from the soil,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Small changes to the amount of carbon in the soil can have really big consequences for how much carbon is accumulating in the atmosphere.”

Sanderman said the research marked the first time the amount of carbon pulled out of the soil has been spatially quantified. The 133 billion tons of carbon lost from soil compares to about 140 billion tons lost due to deforestation, he said, mostly since the mid-1800s and the Industrial Revolution.

But the findings show potential for the earth’s soil to mitigate global warming by absorbing more carbon through such practices as better land stewardship, more extensive ground cover to minimize erosion, better diversity of crop rotation and no-till farming, he said.

The world’s nations agreed in Paris in 2015 to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases generated by burning fossil fuels that are blamed by scientists for warming the planet.

Read The Full Story About Agriculture and Climate Change.

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Palm Oil Producers, Buyers Still Blowing Smoke

World Economic Forum Promoting New Avenues

Palm oil is the fastest-growing commodity on the planet. Sales are expected to exceed $88 billion by 2022. Unfortunately, the industry and its supporters are still blowing smoke about deforestation, biodiversity and climate change. There’s a better way forward and we can help make it a reality.

Palm oil is one of the most controversial commodities. It’s driving deforestation on a massive scale across Southeast Asia, South America and Africa. Deforestation is a major contributor to global warming, land-use change and wildlife extinction.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of crude palm oil. Approximately 45 million acres of land in Indonesia has been licensed for palm oil development. Unfortunately, licenses mean very little in the land of smoke and mirrors. Even protected areas, such as the Leuser National Park, are under siege. RSPO members aren’t defending biodiversity or the forests. They only protect themselves from the truth.

palm oil plantation deforestation

Palm oil is derived from the fruit harvested from date palm trees. Presently, more than 95 percent of palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia. It is marketed as a low-cost form of vegetable oil. It’s used in the majority of consumer goods, including food and personal products, such as lotion and soaps. It’s also marketed as a biofuel. Multinational corporations, including Unilever, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Ferrero and many others are under fire from customers and stockholders for supporting deforestation. These companies and the palm oil industry have gone to great lengths for years to cover their tracks and green wash their supply chain with claims of so-called sustainable palm oil. There is no such thing as sustainable palm oil. It’s no more sustainable than crude oil or coal.

The Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was set up in 2004 following a series of meetings between WWF and palm oil companies. According to WWF, “One of the huge successes of the Roundtable is the development of a certification system for sustainable palm oil.” Unfortunately, that certification system was riddled with fraud and abuse. It’s a label bought not earned.

In 2015, a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency and Grassroots exposed serious problems in the RSPO certification system. Auditing firms that are supposed to monitor palm oil companies’ operations are colluding with the companies to hide violations.

The latest trend is called Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). Call it what you will—palm oil plantations and biodiversity do not mix. Animals that enter palm oil plantations are killed. In many cases, bounties have been put on endangered orangutans, elephants and Sumatran tigers. Indonesia has already pushed two tiger species into extinction. The Sumatran tiger could easily follow the Java tiger and Bali tiger into the history books thanks to an industry with no reverence or conscience.

deforestation and climate change

In 2013, Greenpeace produced a report titled “Certifying Destruction,” which highlighted some of the tactics being used to shield the truth about this massive industry. A similar report came out again in 2015 by EIA. In a similar vein, PepsiCo recently released a report in an attempt to cover its tracks. Rainforest Action Network pounced on the report this week as another attempt to cover up the blood in its supply chain.

A report released by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) in April 2017, titled “Profits over People and the Planet, Not ‘Performance with Purpose’; Exposing PepsiCo’s Real Agenda,” revealed PepsiCo’s connections to Conflict Palm Oil suppliers, which are driving deforestation, climate emissions, and human and labor rights abuses across Indonesia, Malaysia, and Latin America. Today’s release by PepsiCo lacks a meaningful response to the issues raised in RAN’s report.

“PepsiCo’s latest “Palm Oil Action Plan Progress Report” is a masterful attempt to window dress its lack of progress in addressing the systemic environmental and human rights violations in its palm oil supply chain and in the operations of its joint venture partner Indofood. In the real world, forests continue to fall and workers continue to be exploited for the production of palm oil used in PepsiCo’s products.

“While PepsiCo openly acknowledges in its report that deforestation and labor rights violations are rampant in the palm oil industry, the company has once again failed to set a deadline to end these abuses in its own supply chains,” said Robin Averbeck, Senior Campaigner of RAN. “Instead, PepsiCo hides behind false claims of sustainability made by the RSPO––the same certification system that has continued to certify its controversial partner Indofood, despite its ongoing exploitation of workers exposed by RAN, Indonesian labor rights organization OPPUK, and International Labor Rights Forum in June 2016.”

orangutan conservation

“PepsiCo needs to stop the corporate greenwash and stop rainforest destruction and the violation of workers and communities’ rights in its supply chain and the plantations controlled by its partner Indofood. Until it does so, PepsiCo and its financial backers will be exposed to campaigns that demand real outcomes on the ground.”

The palm oil industry and its pimps throughout the supply chain, including the RSPO, continue throwing misinformation into the market to placate investors, wholesale buyers and consumers of products that contain palm oil. Meanwhile, RSPO members continue to rape and pillage virgin rain forests and peat lands as they produce more than half of global palm oil supplies.

European nations are threatening to ban palm oil as a “renewable biofuel” in an attempt to reduce demand and force meaningful changes in the palm oil industry. Indonesia and Malaysia are digging in to keep palm oil production and consumption at an all-time high. The industry accounts for billions of dollars per year for the countries’ tycoons and cronies.

As all of this fraud indicates, the palm oil industry and palm oil buyers are desperately seeking solutions, while deforestation and its contribution to wildlife extinction continue. According to a report from the World Economic Forum, the push to get commodity producers, including beef and soy, out of the world’s last rain forests represents a multi-billion dollar opportunity. The good news is that an alternative production model exists that isn’t dependent on rain forest destruction.

palm oil and orangutans

Cities around the world in the tropics, subtropics and deserts represent a powerful opportunity to expand the footprint of palm oil production, while promoting urban agroforestry, sustainability, resiliency and economic development. It can also cut shipping costs by decentralizing the production so that it’s closer to the buyers, such as PepsiCo and others. It’s a win-win opportunity for all stakeholders and stockholders. We need a leader to step forward to demonstrate the benefits of urban agroforestry. It’s a deforestation-free production model that offers valuable benefits.

This initiative will make cities more productive, livable, sustainable and resilient. Some of the new palm trees can help combat the urban heat island effect on our streets and highways. Others can reduce energy demands by sheltering homes, schools and office buildings. Strategically placed trees also can shade parks, golf courses, parks, school grounds and rooftops, while absorbing and sequestering tons of carbon dioxide. Farms and ranches will have an incentive to line their fence lines with a new cash crop. Most importantly, we can create jobs, educational opportunities and sustainable palm oil worth millions of dollars every year just by being resourceful and innovative.

Deforestation and Biodiversity News

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com Together, we can stop deforestation and preserve biodiversity.