KUALA LUMPUR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A new alliance of rainforest nations – sought by Brazil’s President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – could hold the key to unlocking conservation funding and strengthening a global forest pact in decline at COP27 climate summit, say environmentalists.
Before narrowly winning the second round of elections in Brazil on October 30, Lula began reaching out to Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to form a united front of tropical forest countries, according to a senior responsible for the leftist leader.
Ahead of the UN climate summit COP27, to be held in Egypt from November 6-18, environmental groups have urged Brazil and other forest nations to team up to increase their bargaining power in talks with potential donors on rainforest protection.
“An alliance of countries like Brazil, Indonesia and the DRC – all of which face similar threats – can put pressure on wealthier countries to accelerate efforts to stop deforestation,” said Annisa Rahmawati, head of Indonesian conservation group Satya Bumi, noting Lula’s commitment to putting forest protection at the heart of his economic plans and policies.
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Logging down forests has major implications for global goals to curb global warming, as trees absorb around a third of the climate-warming carbon emissions produced globally, but release the carbon they store when they rot or are burned.
Forests also provide food and livelihoods, purify air and water, support human health, provide essential habitat for wildlife, regulate rainfall and provide protection from flooding.
But as forest-rich countries grapple with pressures on energy and food prices linked to Russia’s war on Ukraine, in addition to fiscal challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the exploitation of natural resources is seen by many as a solution.
Last year, an area of rainforest the size of the Netherlands was lost, according to monitoring service Global Forest Watch, with Brazil recording the highest rates of deforestation.
Lula hopes to turn the tide, promising in his election victory speech to tackle illegal logging, mining and land grabbing that have driven growing deforestation in the Amazon over the past four years under far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.
“Having such a strong voice (like Lula) in any future alliance would amplify and accelerate efforts to move towards just and climate-friendly economic development, while ensuring our forests stand tall,” Rahmawati said.
Brazil, Indonesia and the DRC were among more than 140 countries that agreed to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030 at last year’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
The agreement, which has seen slow progress so far, was backed by $19 billion in public and private funding commitments to invest in forest protection and restoration.
Since then, Germany has pledged 1.5 billion euros ($1.5 billion) a year in international biodiversity finance, while Norway has struck a new finance pact with Indonesia to reduce its carbon emissions by conserving the rainforest – potentially opening the door to more support from other donors.
Norway’s environment minister said in a social media post this week that he was also set to resume a deal to pay Brazil for Amazon rainforest protection results, frozen after the destruction of the largest rainforest in the world under Bolsonaro.
Carbon markets, meanwhile – which are another tool to slow deforestation – have been hampered by low prices, said James Deutsch, CEO of the Rainforest Trust, a US-based nonprofit.
However, if the three largest potential government sellers of forest carbon credits join forces, it could help increase the price paid per tonne of CO2 emissions avoided, he added.
“It’s an intriguing and potentially powerful strategy for increasing monetary flows, reducing deforestation and slowing climate change,” he said.
The three countries also have a lot to teach the world about forest conservation, said Amy Duchelle, forestry officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Brazil was the climate change success story in the early 2000s when its government – then led by Lula – reduced deforestation rates in the Amazon, she said.
“Indonesia has (also) recently succeeded in reducing deforestation,” Duchelle noted, adding that there is a huge opportunity for these countries to lead by example and demand more forest-friendly policies from other governments.
Another positive factor in the creation of a new alliance for tropical forests is that the net zero goals and climate action are much stronger than ten years ago, when an initial effort to form such a partnership failed, said Rod Taylor, global director of forests at the World Resources Institute. , a Washington-based think tank.
There could now be a bigger pool of funding and political momentum that the three countries could draw from “if they play their cards right”, he added.
But enforcing forest protection laws in remote areas is a problem for all three, conservationists said, while Bolsonaro’s allies form the largest bloc in Brazil’s Congress, which could hamper Lula’s political push.
Toerris Jaeger, executive director of the Oslo-based Rainforest Foundation Norway, said potential partners “face many of the same issues”, including how to monitor deforestation, stop illegal activities and support forest peoples.
Other forest nations – such as Colombia – could also participate in the talks and join any new alliance at COP27 to create a “more robust and effective” coalition, he added.
“Done well, collaboration and exchange of experiences between forest countries can help tackle deforestation,” Jaeger said.
(Reporting by Michael Taylor; Editing by Megan Rowling. The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit https://www.context.news/)
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