REDD+ in Brazil: The national context
Two-thirds of the Amazon biome, the world’s largest remaining tropical forest, is located in Brazil. Around 370 million ha, or 85% of the Brazilian Amazon and 43% of Brazil’s land area, remain forested. From the mid-1970s until 2004, aggressive land development strategies made Brazil the world’s largest deforesting country: annual forest loss peaked in 1995 and again in 2004, at almost 3 million ha, with much of that cleared land ending up as cattle pasture. Timber extraction still only plays a minor and indirect role in Brazil’s forest carbon losses. Large- and smallholders alike contribute to deforestation, facilitated by policy drivers such as subsidized agricultural credits, large-scale road building and resettlement programs (May et al. 2011). The resettlement programs involve the colonization of smallholders into land reform settlements managed by Brazil’s agrarian reform institute, INCRA, where there are typically high levels of deforestation due in part to the use of forest clearing as a way to secure tenure rights (Brandão et al. 2012; Duchelle et al. 2014).
However, since 2004, Brazil has gradually cut Amazon deforestation by a spectacular 79%, to ‘just’ 0.6 million ha in 2012 (INPE 2014a). This reduction mostly predated the emergence of REDD+ as an international initiative: it was the result of a series of policies, plus a slowdown in the growth of commodity prices that curbed private investments in land clearing (Assunção et al. 2012). After 2004, many deforestation-sensitive civil society representatives entered the Lula administration, and the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Amazon Region (PPCDAM) has since functioned as an interministerial coordination tool. During 2003–2008, 19 million ha of new protected areas were created, and large tracts of indigenous territories also gained official recognition. Satellite-based monitoring of changes in forest cover, principally by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), empowered timely command-and-control enforcement actions by Brazil’s environmental police, IBAMA – perhaps the single most effective action to curb deforestation. Municipalities with high deforestation were blacklisted and consequently blocked from certain resource transfers from central government. To get off the blacklist, municipalities had to register 80% of their private properties in the CAR system – a step toward compliance with the Brazilian Forest Code and tenure regularization – and reduce the area deforested annually below predetermined thresholds. Additionally, commodity roundtables increased private sector environmental compliance in supply chains.
Brazil thus became an ‘early bird’ showcase for how REDD+ countries could potentially turn around high-deforestation scenarios to mitigate forest carbon emissions substantially (UNEP 2012). State governments such as Amazonas, Acre and Mato Grosso played proactive roles in achieving these conservation gains, including through six Amazonian states’ participation in the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force. Additionally, over 50 Brazilian subnational REDD+ initiatives emerged, the highest among all tropical countries (CIFOR 2014), although probably with some turnover. Many of these initiatives are supported by the Amazon Fund, funded by USD 1 billion from Norway for 2008–2015 (plus some German and national Petrobras funds). This fund was launched in 2008, is managed by the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) and supports projects by government agencies, NGOs and universities that demonstrate a direct or indirect contribution to reducing deforestation and degradation (Amazon Fund 2014). Various state governments also participated in subnational initiatives or have since created jurisdictional REDD+ programs.
Perhaps the most interesting potential of these subnational initiatives is to pilot intervention mixes at subnational scales of aggregation. It has been argued that the recent successful anti-deforestation policies at the national level have emphasized ‘sticks’ over ‘carrots,’ putting most opportunity costs of avoided deforestation on Amazon land users, which calls into question the political sustainability of these drastic reductions (Börner et al. 2014; Nepstad et al. 2014). In turn, many subnational initiatives are pursuing more balanced policy mixes of forest law enforcement (negative) incentives, conditional and/or nonconditional landholder (positive) incentives, and land-tenure regularization (enabling) measures. The customization of these intervention mixes to different subnational REDD+ contexts may thus also provide some valuable lessons about how to design national policy mixes.
Brazil is currently developing a legal framework for REDD+ implementation, under a working group led by the Ministry of Environment. A national law on PES is well advanced, and is also being informed by pilot REDD+ experiences, such as Juma – the oldest Brazilian REDD+ initiative (Börner et al. 2013; also see Chapter 3: Bolsa Floresta Initiative). Subnational initiatives could cross-fertilize these complex national efforts. Yet, the Brazilian case also features significant challenges on how to equitably share REDD+ benefits across levels of governance (local, state, national) (GCF 2014a). Brazil could also set an example here, especially for other large, forested countries with multilevel governance structures.