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What Should the Brazilian Government Do About Reducing Amazon’s Deforestation? Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 16th, 2022

Introduction

The Amazon forest is one of the world’s most important ecosystems because of its role in regulating oxygen and carbon cycles in the atmosphere (Nepstad et al., 2009). However, recently, there has been a rapid increase in deforestation levels in the natural ecosystem, thereby threatening its sustainability (Araujo, Combes, & Feres, 2019; WWF, 2020). Reports indicate that Amazon’s landmass is depreciating at an alarming rate with statistics suggesting that the forest loses trees covering the land size of 30 football fields every minute (World Bank, 2020). Additional statistics from the World Bank (2020) give extra details of the destruction by showing that up to 600,000 square kilometers of forestland have been lost due to deforestation. The rapid rate of decline can be traced to the 1980s when Brazil and neighboring countries were experiencing a rapid rate of the industrial revolution, which created an increase in resource demand. It is estimated that about 80% of the lost forestland described above started at this time (World Bank, 2020). These statements suggest that the Amazon may quickly lose its ecological capability because it cannot withstand the ongoing rate of deforestation. The main driver of these destructive activities is agriculture (Ometto, Aguiar, & Martinelli, 2011). Particularly, unplanned farming has been the greatest contributor to the effects of deforestation in the Amazon.

The task of protecting Amazon’s forestland has been reserved for government authorities who understand the unique needs of each zone of the forest’s landmass (Pfaff et al., 2015; Moutinho, Guerra, & Azevedo-Ramos, 2016). However, they have failed to achieve their intended goal, which is to reduce or minimize the rate of ecological destruction in the forest. This is because their plans have not been developed with an ecological mindset. In other words, at the core of their design is an “extraction mentality” that is premised on resource exploitation, as opposed to environmental conservation (Evangelista-Vale et al., 2021). In this regard, they support efforts to build more roads and expand large-scale livestock rearing, at the expense of existing ecological considerations.

It is important to analyze Brazil’s policy regime of environmental protection to mitigate the effects of deforestation. This analysis may have policy implications on Brazil’s agricultural policies and land use regime with spillover effects being noted in logging and timber industries that benefit directly or indirectly from deforestation in the Amazon (Assuncao, Gandour, & Rocha, 2015; Stabile, 2020; Yanai et al., 2020). This policy analysis report is domiciled in the evaluative, as opposed to the selection stage of policy analysis because relevant policy programs relating to Amazon’s conservation efforts have been identified below and there is a need to understand their merits and demerits to come up with updated ones.

Critique of Policy Option

Political developments in Brazil and the ineffectiveness of existing policy proposals to mitigate the effects of deforestation on the forest have largely contributed to the ecological destruction of the Amazon rainforest. For example, political declarations made by President Meicher Temer about the conservation of the Amazon rainforest have undermined efforts to dissuade locals from destroying the forest (Pereira, 2019). The effects of failed political promises to direct funds into the ministry of environment, which is tasked with the responsibility of managing the forest, have compounded the problem. Consequently, government authorities have been unable to police logging activities in the forest (Pereira, 2019). This weakness in implementation means that Brazil’s political class has played a role in undermining conservation efforts in the Amazon rainforest.

Although the current policy regime is intended to reduce deforestation levels in Brazil, current policy and regulatory frameworks undermine this goal because it creates conditions that reward the opposite outcome (Rausch and Gibbs, 2021). Particularly, the effects of the current policy environment on conservation efforts at the Amazon are influenced by a distorted understanding of sustainable development goals, whose achievement is hindered by the quest to meet short-term economic interests, such as employment, at the expense of long-term goals, such as environmental protection. Andrade (2020) has delved deeper into this issue by stating that most concepts of environmental sustainability are designed with cultural and economic implications in mind. However, the current policy regime on environmental management policies in Brazil fails to acknowledge cultural variations and the economic cultures of various communities surrounding the Amazon. These gaps in implementation create variations in policy implementation and formulation processes, thereby making it difficult to create a holistic conservation plan. Consequently, it is important to come up with new policy proposals to address this need.

Policy Alternatives

Policy Alternative 1: Promoting Sustainable Infrastructure

Given the weaknesses of the current policy regime in regulating economic activities in the Amazon rainforest, there is a need to undertake extensive reforms that will seal the implementation gaps evident in the current plan. To achieve this goal, authorities should create a policy framework promoting sustainable infrastructure, as proposed by the WWF (2020). This proposal is centered on recognizing the ecological effects of economic activities and factoring in their value in the country’s taxation regime, especially on activities that depend on logging activities.

Policy Alternative 2: Creating a Conservation Fund

Part of the challenge associated with implementing the current policy proposals for conserving the Amazon rainforest has been traced to a lack of funds. Particularly, this problem stems from the political establishment in Brazil, through the Office of the President and the Ministry of Environment, which has failed to allocate adequate funds towards conservation efforts in the forest (WWF, 2020). To address this problem, there needs to be a restructuring of the financing framework supporting financing activities at the national governing council of the forest’s management body. This proposal may involve donor participation at both private and public levels through the establishment of a common fund. The resources could be used to expand policy implementation activities in the forest and purchase vital resources for patrolling vast swaths of land. Realizing the full benefits of this plan involves changing the financial policy regime of the government to include contributions from both private and private players to create a common pool of funds for financing policing activities.

Policy Alternative 3: Implementing Place-Based Conservation Programs

Changing Brazil’s policy regime of conserving the Amazon from one that is heavily government-centered to a place-based approach would boost efforts to conserve the forest. Notably, this plan will help to stop the illegal expansion of agricultural land in the forest (Scholz, 2005). Furthermore, it is designed to ensure that all players or stakeholders involved in conservation efforts meet their end of the bargain (WWF, 2020). This goal will be achieved by blending two approaches. The first one is premised on developing programs that involve the contribution of government agencies in management, while the second one should be focused on forging partnerships between market-based players and agricultural producers. Such engagements may be localized using the place-based conservation approach where efforts to protect the forest will be spearheaded by local authorities, subject to the terms of the partnership agreements described above.

PESTLE Feasibility Analysis

For purposes of understanding the feasibility of implementing the above-mentioned policy alternatives, it is important to understand the effects of environmental factors on the policy adoption process. This process underscores the importance of reviewing the political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental aspects of the policy implementation plan. The PESTLE analysis below will be used to carry out this review.

  • Political: The policy alternatives identified above require the participation of government agencies in their implementation phases. This plan is intended to secure government support when introducing policy alternatives.
  • Economic: The involvement of both private and public players in the establishment of a common fund for managing conservation activities in the Amazon rainforest means that the policy alternatives will be sufficiently financed. Coupled with the annual contributions made by the Brazilian Ministry of Environment towards the same cause, there is potential for the proposed interventions to secure adequate financial support for implementation.
  • Social: The three proposed policy interventions outlined above involve local communities in the implementation of conservation efforts in the Amazon rainforest. Particularly, the place-based conservation approach utilizes community resources in implementing the proposed plans. This action means that community support will be essential in adopting proposed policies.
  • Technological: Information, communication, and technology resources are crucial in implementing the policy proposals highlighted above. Particularly, they will be instrumental in creating a sustainable infrastructure for implementing the proposed plans through systems integration and supervision of policing activities, such as the use of surveillance cameras.
  • Legal: The policy proposals outlined above require legislative changes to finance the implementation directives outlined above. They allow for the inclusion of more players in the policy implementation process, thereby strengthening the legal basis for introducing new policy plans.
  • Environmental: Protecting the Amazon through the aforementioned policy proposals is intended to maximize the environmental objectives of the policy alternatives. This goal is the common identifier for all initiatives to be undertaken by concerned parties in Brazil regarding efforts to protect the Amazon rainforest.

Recommendations

Overall, it is important to take action to mitigate the negative effects of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. Changing the policy regime of the Brazilian government to reduce the effects of deforestation will play a key role in promoting the development of a “green” economy, which will also subsidize the demand for logging and deforestation in the forest. The policy proposals outlined in this document will help Brazil to understand the value of its natural resources, and more importantly, those from the Amazon forest. Doing so will enable them to have a deforestation tax imposed on all economic activities in the sector. However, the plan should involve all stakeholders to improve their buy-in. This proposal will act as a deterrent to ongoing deforestation practices on Amazon.

References

Andrade, F. M. (2020). Sustainable development in the Brazilian Amazon: Meanings and concepts. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 28(187), 1-12.

Araujo, C., Combes, J., & Feres, J. (2019). Determinants of Amazon deforestation: The role of off-farm income. Environment and Development Economics, 24(2), 138-156.

Assuncao, J., Gandour, C., & Rocha, R. (2015). Deforestation slowdown in the Brazilian Amazon: Prices or policies? Environment and Development Economics, 20(2), 697-722.

Evangelista-Vale, J. et al. (2021). Climate change may affect the future of extractivism in the Brazilian Amazon. Biological Conservation, 257(2), 1-10.

Moutinho, P., Guerra, R., & Azevedo-Ramos, C. (2016). Achieving zero deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon: What is missing. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, 4(1), 1-10.

Nepstad, D. et al. (2009). The end of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Science, 326(5958), 1350-1351.

Ometto, J. P., Aguiar, A. P., & Martinelli, L. A. (2011). Amazon deforestation in Brazil: Effects, drivers and challenges. Carbon Management, 2(5), 575-585.

Pereira, E. (2019). Policy in Brazil (2016-2019) threatens conservation of the Amazon rainforest. Environmental Science and Policy, 100(3), 8-12.

Pfaff, A. et al. (2015). Protected areas impact on Brazilian amazon deforestation: Examining conservation development interaction to inform planning. PLoS ONE, 10(7), 1-17.

Rausch, L. L., & Gibbs, H. K. (2021). The low opportunity costs of the Amazon Soy Moratorium. Frontier for Global Change, 4(2), 1-19.

Scholz, I. (2005). Environmental policy cooperation among organized civil society, national public actors, and international actors in the Brazilian Amazon. The European Journal of Development Research, 17(4), 681-705.

Stabile, M. (2020). Solving Brazil’s land use puzzle: Increasing production and slowing Amazon’s deforestation. Land use Policy, 91(3), 1-11.

World Bank. (2020). .

WWF. (2020). Deforestation fronts. Web.

Yanai, A. M. et al. (2020). Deforestation dynamics in Brazil’s Amazonian settlements: Effects of land tenure concentration. Journal of Environmental Management, 268(23), 1-11.

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