Brazil currently leads the world in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to two new studies released this month. Furthermore, its commitment to reducing deforestation and improving agricultural efficiency has improved its economy.
The study in the journal Science focuses on Brazil and its relationship to the beef and soy industry. Since 2004, Brazil has implemented stricter policies on how much land farmers can clear for cattle and crops. Rather than impede progress, these restrictions have led farmers to improve their farming methods, leading to greater efficiency and higher yields.
In the last ten years, Brazil has reduced deforestation by 70 percent and saved over 33,000 square miles of the Amazon from clear cutting. In addition to boosting its economy, the action has also prevented 3.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide from being released.
The greenhouse emissions that result from deforestation are not only a result of burning or industrial clearing. Trees absorb carbon as they grow and when they’re burned or destroyed, they release that carbon back into the atmosphere. In this way, deforestation contributes to 10 percent of global climate emissions. Preserving the Amazon prevents further emissions.
A second report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) shows how Brazil’s success has encouraged 16 other countries to implement their own policies to reduce deforestation.
“Successfully reducing deforestation is essential as forests are home to a wide range of plants and animals, and vital to the livelihoods of indigenous communities,” says Doug Boucher, the report’s author and director of UCS’s Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative. “When forests are cleared—for palm oil plantations, agriculture or livestock—we lose vital resources, put animals at risk of extinction, and release massive quantities of carbon dioxide stored in the trees and soil. What’s surprising about today’s report is the number of countries that are effectively protecting their tropical forests and the wide variety of policies and programs that are working. There’s no one right way to stop deforestation, but rather a smorgasbord of options.”
Brazil took particular praise not only for reenforcing its existing laws and expanding its protected areas but also for offering financial incentives to reduce deforestation in developing countries by joining the REDD+ program (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation).