26 September 2008

How to rebalance the equation of deforestation in the Amazon - Part I - Environmental Services

The possibility of valuation of environmental services provided by the forest is the biggest economic opportunity of Amazônia today. In the past we had rubber, in the future we will probably have the technology to use the natural laboratory to our advantage, on the extent of which is unimaginable today; presently, for the region as a whole, environmental services can be the solution. Amazônia small rivers give the environmental services of maintenance of the climate and water cycle, prevention of global heating, and conservation of biodiversity, amongst others. With only one pertinent difference: without compensation.

Taking a step in this direction, Amazonas in conjunction with the Foundation for Sustainable Amazonas celebrated a partnership with the chain of hotels Marriott to preserve an area of 5 thousand km ², seeking the improvement of the living conditions for the local population (approximately one thousand inhabitants) and having as a counterpart the conservation of the area and subsequent provision of environmental services. This reserve, located on the River Juma, is situated in the arc of the deforestation, in such a way that, in a “normal” scenario, would be deforested in the next years.

This project is based on an initial donation on the part of the chain of hotels and, subsequently, the contributions of guests who opt on paying an additional small amount to contribute to the reserve. The project destines itself to implement improvements in monitoring and the Bolsa Floresta program, lead by the Foundation for Sustainable Amazonas, presided over by former-Minister Furlan and former-Secretary of the Environment of Amazonas Virgílio Viana. With respect to monitoring, the main actions include the use of satellite in conjunction with the presence of well equipped points of monitoring by land. The Bolsa Floresta program, aside from a payment of R$50 monthly to the families who do not participate in deforestation, also disperses payments of approximately R$750 per year for families of the small communities. This additional expense must be spent through a communitarian organization (R$50 per family), sustainable economic activities (R$350 per family) and social improvements (R$350 per family, aiming at education, health, transport and communication).

Two factors of the project are in disagreement with the rolls of policies of development previously attempted in the country.

·         The financing does not come from the public budget and yes, in this case, from the donation and income obtained by the Foundation.

·         The communities decide on how to better use the resources, and not bureaucrats separated by thousands of kilometers of distance.

The project is seeking to be compensated with VREs (voluntary reductions of carbon emissions) following CCB methodology (the main standard for forest carbon projects), due to the estimated reduction in deforestation. The CCB methodology is emerging as the standard means of evaluation of REDD projects (Reduction of Emissions based on Deforestation and Degradation), which is of extreme relevance for the Amazonian region.

Amongst the many positive factors in this example, it is of great importance the advent of the economic initiative swaying in favor of the standing forest. Thus begins the change in the economic equation “the standing forest vs. the fallen forest.” Only this re-balancing can permit the creation of a sustainable economy on Amazônia of which we will be proud of.

            With partners such as Marriott and Bradesco, the State of Amazonas will be able to reach a scenario in which the deforestation, already at a low level (of about 750 km ² or 0.05% of the state per year), will be reduced to zero. The necessity of the magnifying of these efforts is evident, leaving doubts only as to how to complete the task.

Although the hope and expectation exists that more responsible citizens and companies will voluntarily extend their contributions to similar projects (in case you are one of them, visit the site www.fas-amazonas.org), almost a thousand similar projects would be necessary to cover all of Amazônia. The accurate solution to protect all of the 4,3 million km ² of Brazilian Amazônia can occur by a new international regimen of valuation and payment for environmental services. Today, this regimen is contemplated to assume the gap following the conclusion of the Kyoto Protocol that will end in 2012; Amazonas proposes that we receive credits from carbon (for the storage of carbon) or credits for any other environmental processes (to a large extent covered in CCB methodology) in exchange for the conservation. Knowing that the benefits will be enjoyed by all, nothing more just than sharing the costs with all.

            Let us remember the rules of social justice, political balance, economic viability and environmental adequacy (Prof. Benchimol). The conservation of the forest ceases to be a sign of absence of men and economic inactivity to become a sign of humanity and regional strength.

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