When he spoke at COP27 shortly after being reelected, then President-Elect of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was greeted with not only applause, but also a palpable sense of hope.
Now in office, President Lula has pledged to save the Amazon rainforest, the so-called “lungs of the Earth”. This shift by the Brazilian national government to protect its natural capital and stop Amazon deforestation, alongside new regulations from the EU, shows tremendous promise. However, further action is required to prevent deforestation, as this is a crucial element of achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. By financing climate projects in the voluntary carbon market (VCM), companies can play a vital role in protecting forests, while simultaneously helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Lula Wants to End Brazilian Deforestation
President Lula's position marks a significant shift from his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, whose lax approach to the Amazon saw the area of deforested land increasing every year of his tenure. Indeed, during the period from 2019 to 2021, there was a 52% increase in deforestation compared to the previous three years. This occurred because of the weakening of environmental and regulatory authorities, the unilateral closing of the steering committee for the Amazon Fund, the neglect of illegal deforestation, and more. As a result, in 2021, the Amazon rainforest acted as a carbon source and not a carbon sink for the first time; this means it emitted more carbon dioxide than it absorbed.
Although he faces stiff resistance from Bolsonaro’s supporters, President Lula wants to position Brazil as an international leader for climate action. For example, he has offered for Brazil to host COP30 in 2025 and recently appointed esteemed Amazon activist Marina Silva as Brazil’s new environment minister. Additionally, considering the lack of substantial progress on a common international trading mechanism at COP 27, Brazil is embracing leadership on emissions reduction agreements. It has already announced a partnership with Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the two other countries with the largest areas of rainforest in the world. Together, these countries can combat rainforest deforestation by developing a sustainable system of funding for projects that protect rainforests, biodiversity, and the people that depend on them, including through REDD+ projects.
EU Addresses Causes of Deforestation
At the European level, the EU recently announced a provisional agreement on a groundbreaking law to curb deforestation. It will prohibit placement on the EU market of key goods linked to deforestation not only in the EU, but globally. This includes commodities identified as key drivers of deforestation, such as palm oil, soy, timber, cocoa, and coffee, as well as products derived from them. Companies that import such goods will have to follow strict due diligence measures to ensure their products are deforestation-free and legal. This will have tremendous ramifications for Brazil, as it is one of the largest suppliers of forest products to the EU and the biggest exporter of soybeans in the world.
This law is also expected to have a significant direct impact on decarbonisation and deforestation. According to an European Commission study, the proposal will result in an annual reduction in carbon emissions of 31.9 million metric tonnes per year. Additionally, it will protect at least 71,920 hectares of forest annually, equivalent to roughly 100,000 football pitches. Indirectly, the EU hopes to set a standard with this first-of-its-kind law, and the market-setting effects could facilitate even wider change.
How Can We Stop Deforestation?
While policy shifts in Brazil and the EU will promote more sustainable production and forest protection, these efforts are not enough by themselves. To defeat deforestation, companies must also play an active role. As shown in our Climate Action Awareness Report, 80% of consumers say it is important that companies take responsibility to protect the climate. Accordingly, there is also growing understanding around the responsibility of companies to calculate and reduce their carbon footprint. Through our portfolio of climate projects based on international standards, ClimatePartner offers customers a fresh opportunity for achieving impact.
Indeed, ClimatePartner and our customers have already joined the fight against deforestation, both internationally and in our own backyard. In Cujubim, Brazil, the REDD+ forest protection project trains local stakeholders in regenerative farming techniques and sustainable forest management. Recognising the dependence of the local community on natural resources, the project adopts a science-based approach to natural resource harvesting. Workshops and trained extension personnel also train local teams on these techniques, as well as other topics, such as fire prevention. In doing so, the Cujubim project contributes to numerous SDGS, namely:
- SDG 1 (No Poverty) - The project employs 55 local people and offers training in the development of skills relating to forest and non-timber forest management.
- SDG 4 (Quality Education) - Local stakeholders are empowered by providing capacity-building and training workshops for members of local associations, producers, and farm employees. These focus on issues such as agro-forestry systems, low carbon agriculture, sustainable forest management, environmental education, first aid, and ArcGis (a geographic information system)
- SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) - To ensure the continued protection of natural resources, minimal impact harvesting techniques are adopted. These are compliant with all current legislation and forest certification principles. Thus, this project promotes sustainable resource management, allowing for economic growth, social participation, and ecological sustainability.
- SDG 13 (Climate Action) - The project aims to reduce greenhouse gases caused by deforestation and forest degradation and saves about 278,590 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. According to a 2017 study, natural climate solutions can provide one-third of the climate mitigation actions needed by 2030. This project shows how leveraging private investments can make an impact with these solutions.
- SDG 15 (Life on Land) - The project contributes to the conservation of high-value forests in an area rich in natural beauty and biodiversity.
ClimatePartnerian Carolina Fernandes, recently visited the Cujubim project. After three days on the project site, she left with an increased appreciation for the impact of such projects. “The difference between the area inside and outside the project is shocking. Having the opportunity to see this reality in person has only emphasised the importance of investing in forest protection projects,” Carolina says.
She also highlights that the project inverts the incentives of local landowners. Instead of burning or cutting the forest down, managing the forest sustainably becomes more profitable. Thus, the project not only protects invaluable rainforest, but also brings economic benefits to the local community. “It’s really the perfect example of how a REDD+ project should work,” Carolina concludes.
Fire protection training / Biodiversity within project area
The future of forests
Ultimately, protecting our forests and preventing deforestation is a key challenge in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. With the incoming Lula administration dedicated to protecting the Amazon and a groundbreaking new EU law, progress on defeating deforestation looks increasingly promising. However, for such a challenge to be truly overcome, efforts must be made on all fronts, including by the private sector. Companies committed to enacting their corporate climate strategies can play a decisive role by financing climate projects in the Global South that support the SDGs.