Deforestation in the Amazon and US-Brazil Climate Action Ahead of Paris

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Forests & Lands

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff recently joined President Obama for a bilateral meeting in Washington with major implications for the future of forests and climate policy heading into this year’s UN Paris summit. As The Washington Post writes, the “leaders of the Western Hemisphere’s two most populous countries released a statement pledging each country to get 20 percent of its electricity by 2030 from renewable sources, not including hydropower. In addition, Brazil pledged to restore 12 million hectares, or 46,332 square miles, of its forests — about the size of England — by 2030 while it also pursues ‘policies aimed at eliminating illegal deforestation.’”

All of these commitments are important and necessary steps for the climate. In particular, Brazil’s plan to regrow 12 million hectares of forest would have enormous global significance. Restoration at this scale, combined with rapid and full implementation of existing laws would go a long way toward shifting Brazil from shrinking forests to expanding forests with large benefits to the global climate as well as Brazil’s rural economy and local communities.

Last week, Climate Advisers’ Managing Director Michael Wolosin joined BBC World News to discuss deforestation trends in Brazil and the recent meeting in Washington. Watch the clip below:

Over the past decade, Brazil has done more to slow climate change than any other country by cutting deforestation 75 percent. While recent reports of increased deforestation in the Amazon are certainly troubling, the challenge for Brazil now is to consolidate the progress that they’ve made to date and to reach zero-deforestation as soon as possible. President Rousseff’s pledge to end illegal deforestation is promising, but her goal of ending it by 2030 is far too late – she should be stopping illegal activity as soon as possible, which Brazil has the ability to do with existing laws and authority. Brazil should provide a timeline to peak their economy’s total emissions and stop deforestation by fully enforcing their forest protection laws by 2020 at the latest and preferably much sooner. The US, the EU and other advanced economies have an important role to play to help Brazil get there by ensuring that investments are directed toward sustainable development and that international laws are strengthened to eliminate deforestation from globally supply chains.

Overall, this announcement is another example that no one country can solve climate change on its own. The US-Brazil statement is another example, after the US-China agreement in November, that President Obama is spending significant political capital to get the strongest possible climate pledges from the world’s biggest economies ahead of the Paris summit. The landmark deal that will be finalized in Paris this year will be a major step forward in getting every country to put forward their plans to cut emissions at home. But it also will not be enough to maintain a safe climate. To get there and to close the emissions gap in a meaningful way, all countries need to advance the strongest possible climate action at home, and then go further in partnership with each other. President Obama and the leaders of other developed countries must continue to make concrete pledges to work with developing and emerging economies like Brazil to help reduce emissions more than they could on their own. We can always do more together than alone.

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On July 15, 2015

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