How the private sector can support the Amazon alliance to end deforestation

This week the Leaders of State of the eight countries that share the Amazon Cooperation Treaty (ACT) signed the Belém Declaration, a historic statement in order to face the challenge of protecting the integrality of the Amazon region, fighting poverty and inequalities, “with the purpose of gathering efforts to promote sustainable development that is harmonious, integral, and inclusive in the region”, with Brazil’s leader pledging to achieve zero deforestation by 2030. Even though they have not assumed a common goal to end deforestation, the 113 paragraphs emphasises the urgency of regional cooperation to fight deforestation, halt the advance of illegal natural resources extraction activities, and promote the approaches to land-use planning and transition to sustainable models with the ideal of reaching zero deforestation in the Region. 

BVRio Directors Mauricio Moura Costa and Beto Mesquita attended the pre-summit meetings in Belém, Brazil, including participation in a panel discussion focused on finance to drive deforestation reduction and productive restoration in the Amazon and meetings and workshops focused on the climate governance systems and jurisdictional REDD+ strategies of the Brazilian Legal Amazon states.

BVRio’s Director of Forests and Public Policies, Beto Mesquita, who is also a member of the Brazil Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture – a multi-stakeholder initiative of more than 350 members, including agribusiness entities, companies, civil society organisations, the financial sector and the academia – reflects here on the significance of these statements, and, importantly, how it could work in practice.

“The most important action needed to realise the ambition of achieving zero deforestation will be collaboration. No one entity, solution or country will be able to do this alone, it will take a regional and a global effort.

Also, Governments alone will not provide solutions. It is essential that the private sector is also committed to the protection and recovery of the Amazon as well. And, that countries not only comply with laws, such as the Brazilian Forest Code, but that they create incentives that go far beyond legal obligations so that the movement can gain scale.

This is an opportunity for these countries to find mechanisms for cooperation, integration and collaboration, to effectively protect not only the forest but, above all, the peoples and communities that live in and depend on this forest. The expectation is that the commitments and goals assumed by Brazil – such as zero deforestation by 2030 and promoting economic activities based on standing forest – be an aspirational driver to pull more ambitious commitments from other countries, without the negotiations being blocked by points where there is no convergence, such as, for example, the issue of oil exploration in the region. A cooperation agreement between the countries is expected to strengthen the agenda of combating transboundary illegalities and promoting large-scale forest restoration.

The good news is that the private sector is already mobilised in lots of different ways, and ideally placed to quickly scale up initiatives, if supported by public policies. In its open letter to ACT members, the Brazil Coalition highlighted some guidelines to private companies, in order to scale up bioeconomy, strengthen research and development programs, and encourage local economies based on socio-biodiversity. Currently, there are at least four Brazilian startups dedicated to forest restoration, applying different approaches, methods and financial arrangements. 

The private sector is also excited about the potential of the Brazilian emissions reduction market, which is being designed by the Government and Parliament. According to estimates by the Brazilian Ministry of Industry and Commerce, it would leverage more than US$ 120 billion until 2030. Some experts said that at least 50% of this amount would be invested in nature-based solutions. This scenario can benefit initiatives such as SIMFlor, a BVRio program in partnership with Sustainable Investment Management (SIM) that provides financial compensation to landowners who protect forests above the minimum area required by the Forest Code.

Promotion of low-carbon agriculture, which will require technical assistance and public and private investments, is another opportunity. In this way, initiatives like the Responsible Commodities Facility, another SIM programme which is incentivising soy producers in the Cerrado to forgo their right to convert the remaining vegetation in their farms, and importantly, in excess of legal minimum requirements. 

PlanaFlor – a strategic plan developed at national level, as a ‘green new deal’ to accelerate the implementation of Forest Code – estimates that will be necessary US$10 billion to convert 20 million hectares of degraded pastures, including best practices of pasture management to enhance productivity and the implementation of integrated systems (pasture-forest and pasture-forest-agriculture).

Although the Amazonian countries have not committed themselves to clear and ambitious goals in terms of reducing deforestation and increasing investments in a new economy based on healthy forests standing and healthy rivers flowing, there are opportunities and demand, in Brazil and in other countries, for investments in innovation and sustainability. The premises and general guidelines were pointed out by the Belém Declaration, including strong recommendations related to the rights of indigenous and other traditional people. 

Civil society organisations must point out paths and alternatives, based on innovative, inclusive and fair solutions. Private companies and the financial sector must demonstrate their commitments, anticipating investments and assuming that the greatest risk we run is the risk of collapse in the climate and in the ecosystem services, on which all economic and productive activities depend. There is an urgent call to action. And the time to act is right now.”