Brazil faces a unique situation. While more than 80% of its electrical power comes from renewable sources, the country is also historically the world's biggest carbon emitter from deforestation (0.15-0.2 PgC/year during the 90's, or 2-3% of global total). These emissions could be doubled by human-caused tropical forest fires in years of extreme drought and increased deforestation in coming decades (by 2050). Paradoxically, over the last five years, Brazil has become the world's leading nation in both committing to and achieving GHG reductions. During the UNFCCC conference in Copenhagen (COP15), the Brazilian government announced its official goal of reducing GHG emissions, and at the end of 2009, the National Congress voted into law the National Policy for Climate Change (NPCC). In 2010, during COP16 in Cancun, that goal was turned into a Decree (Nº 7.390), which regulates the NPCC and provides details on the path Brazil intends to follow in order to reach its targets by 2020. This includes an 80% reduction in Amazon deforestation--the country's major source of emissions--by 2020. Finally, there is a growing perception within Brazilian society that the economic and social costs associated with deforestation in the Amazon are much higher than those related to its conservation. Society is starting to perceive forest protection and deforestation reduction as important elements for climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation, and social and cultural protection of traditional communities and indigenous groups. However, all of the above mentioned progress is threatened by a broad attack on the Brazilian Forest Code, escalating federal and private investments into deforestation-promoting infrastructure, the inevitable recovery of beef and soy prices, as well as the general global economic recovery. In the long term, Brazil's powerful agricultural sector is planning to double its agricultural and livestock output by 2020, threatening to undo the NPCC commitments. Considering these threats, it is urgent that Brazil chooses to ground the nation's development on a low carbon emission economy, in which the forest sector plays a fundamental role. But, is Brazil prepared to undertake this type of development? Do we really have a chance to extinguish deforestation in the Amazon permanently?
Dr. Paulo Moutinho (Ph.D. in Ecology, UNICAMP) is the current Executive Director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM). Dr. Moutinho has been working over the past fifteen years in the Amazon, conducting studies related to the dynamics of deforestation and its effects on biodiversity, climate, and inhabitants of the region. Since 2000, Dr. Moutinho has participated in the international discussion on climate change under the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). He has authored dozens of scientific articles and books and has co-authored the "compensated reduction of deforestation" concept, which pleads for international financial compensation to developing countries that make efforts to reduce deforestation and provides a basis for the development of the REDD+ mechanism. Dr. Moutinho is currently based at the IPAM office in Brasilia, working with the National Congress, the Federal Government, and the Amazon States to foster the implementation of the National Policy for Climate Change and to build an alternative model of low emissions development for the Amazon region that promotes forest and biodiversity conservation, ensures the rights of indigenous and traditional communities of their territories and traditional way of life, improves social, economic and environmental conditions, and allows the achievement of the country's emissions reduction target.