The 14th session of the Forum of State Environmental Secretaries of the Brazilian Amazon met in São Luís, in the state of Maranhão, on April 6-7, 2017, with support of the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force. The event had representatives from all nine states of the Brazilian Amazon and a special participation from the Ministry of Environment, José Sarney Filho, who marked the commitment at all levels of the Brazilian government to support the Amazon States efforts in reducing deforestation and promoting sustainable development in the region.
The Minister stressed the need to seek international resources for forest conservation, through mechanisms such as REDD+ – Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Environmental Degradation, as provided for in the Paris Agreement, which allows the compensation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The State Governments are crossing a drastic economic crisis that started in 2014 and limited their capacity for continued investments in environmental protection. The immediate results are already perceived in deforestation rates that came up in the last two years after 8 years of continued reduction.
Sarney Filho spoke about the strategic role of the Amazonian forests and the intensification of management concessions as tools for economic and social wellbeing, as well as for the provision of important environmental services. He highlighted that “Not only does the Brazilian state have a debt to the Amazon, but so does the world. And it is high time we sought compensation. International bodies are already mature and we have to get ahead. I am willing to lead this process of seeking resources.”
In order assess the potential contribution of REDD+ to halting climate change, it is worth remembering that the reduction of deforestation in the Amazon between 2006 and 2014 prevented the emission of about 5 billion tons of carbon in the atmosphere. “REDD+ is an important mechanism to support jurisdictions that have conserved their forests, maintained low historical rates of deforestation or are undertaking a major effort to reduce deforestation in their territories,” says Marcelo Coelho, GCF delegate and Secretary of Environment in the state of Maranhão.
In a scenario that combines economic crisis (with some local GDPs registering shrinkage of up to 9% in recent years, higher than the national average of -3.6% last year), deforestation increase in 2015 (24%) and 2016 (29%) and difficulties in reducing forest fires, it is easy to understand the Forum’ attention to international funding opportunities. International resources, particularly through REDD+, will be crucial for the Brazilian jurisdictions to achieve the Rio Branco Declaration commitments.
At the Forum, the Secretaries of Environment also presented a letter to the Minister, highlighting key issues in Brazilian environmental policy. The letter focused on regulating laws to allow economic incentives to environmental conservation, improving the states’ representation in the National Commission for REDD+ and proposing greater jurisdictional engagement in the implementation plans for the Brazilian NDC. This will be a top priority agenda for 2017.
The Forum of Environmental Secretaries of the Legal Amazon met with the support of the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force. The GCF has encouraged the Forum since its inception and has continuously provided technical and logistical inputs. “The support from GCF and Idesam as the national coordinator has been fundamental to keep momentum and provide key information and resources for the continuation of the Forum,” says Antonio Stroski, State Secretary for Environment of Amazonas and former Executive Secretary of the Forum.
Today, the Amazon secretaries form a cohesive and collaborative group, advocating for the region at national and international levels. The Secretaries will meet again in early May, in the city of Porto Velho, Rondônia, on the occasion of the Forum of Governors of the Legal Amazon.