Is Brazil now the world leader in tackling climate change?

Leandro Castello is a co-author on a new paper published in Science this week. The research story is featured today in The Economist.

Slowing Amazon deforestation through public policy and interventions in beef and soy supply chains

“IN THE 1990s, when an area of Brazilian rainforest the size of Belgium was felled every year, Brazil was the world’s environmental villain and the Amazonian jungle the image of everything that was going wrong in green places. Now, the Amazon ought to be the image of what is going right. Government figures show that deforestation fell by 70% in the Brazilian Amazon region during the past decade, from a ten-year average of 19,500 km2 (7,500 square miles) per year in 2005 to 5,800 km2 in 2013. If clearances had continued at their rate in 2005, an extra 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide would have been put into the atmosphere. That is an amount equal to a year’s emissions from the European Union. Arguably, then, Brazil is now the world leader in tackling climate change.

But how did it break the vicious cycle in which—it was widely expected—farmers and cattle ranchers (the main culprits in the Amazon) would make so much money from clearing the forest that they would go on cutting down trees until there were none left? After all, most other rainforest countries, such as Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have failed to stop the chainsaws. The answer, according to a paper just published in Science by Dan Nepstad of the Earth Innovation Institute in San Francisco, is that there was no silver bullet but instead a three-stage process in which bans, better governance in frontier areas and consumer pressure on companies worked, if fitfully and only after several false starts.”

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This research news is also featured in the New York Times.