Brazil: Global Recognition for Protecting the Amazon

June 7, 2012


US Under-Secretary of Treasury, Lael Brainard; World Bank VP-LAC, Hasan Tuluy; World Bank Managing Director, Sri Mulyani Indrawati; ARPA's Coordinator at the Brazilian Environment Ministry,Trojano Quinhoes; and ARPA's project manager, Adriana Moreira.

World Bank

  • Award recognizes Brazil's efforts to reduce deforestation rates through Protected Areas project.
  • Brazil has managed to curtail deforestation in the Amazon for 4 consecutive years.
  • Program will cover nearly 70 million hectares of rainforest -the equivalent of 50 US. national parks.

Brazil’s efforts to reverse regionally-rising deforestation rates are beginning to yield fruit in the run-up to Rio+20.  

After four consecutive years in decline and as global attempts to protect forests heat up, Brazil gained worldwide recognition in 2011 after hitting a new deforestation low -- roughly 11.7% over 12 months.

One such commendation came in the form of the first ever Green prize awarded to a country project: the Development Impact Honors award from the U.S. Treasury Department, which was given out at a ceremony in Washington D.C. this week.  

Awarded to the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) program – a joint World Bank - Global Environment Facility project (GEF) — the prize recognizes  ARPA’s role in protecting the environment and supporting indigenous populations.

While deforestation rates have increased across Latin America and the Caribbean, more countries have created protected areas. This, in turn, has pushed the overall percentage to around 10% of the region’s territory, according to a recent regional report on green growth.

" Through ARPA we have been able to assist Brazil in its efforts to reduce deforestation and, at the same time, gain valuable experience that can be shared globally. "

Sri Mulyani Indrawati

World Bank Managing Director

Statistics show that protected areas discourage deforestation by providing clear policy guidance and environmental enforcement, supporting indigenous peoples, redirecting territorial occupation and making conservation-based business more attractive.

Covering an area 50% larger than all U.S. National Parks combined at a fraction of the cost,ARPA alone can be credited with a 37% decrease in deforestation between 2004-2009, notes a study by the US National Academy of Sciences.

The Amazon wields  significant influence on regional and world climates and so protecting it is of vital importance,not only for Brazil, but also to support biodiversity on a global scale .  

“Preserving standing tropical forests allows governments, corporations and financial institutions to take immediate action in reducing greenhouse emissions while preserving areas of high biodiversity importance,” explained World Bank Managing Director, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, on receiving the award.

Global experience

“Through ARPA we have been able to assist Brazil in its efforts to reduce deforestation and, at the same time, gain valuable experience that can be shared globally,” she added.

Comprising of two phases and financed by US$46 million in grants from the GEF, the World Bank-implemented ARPA launched in 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This long-term initiative is supported by the Brazilian government, the World Bank, GEF, the World Wildlife Fund and the German Development Bank. Upon completion, ARPA will cover nearly 70 million hectares of rainforest, saving more than 1.1 billion tons of CO2 emissions through 2050.

Collectively, these forests make up an area larger than Texas or the Ukraine, store more than 4.6 billion tons of carbon, or about 18% of the Amazon's total carbon stock, and are home to countless plant and animal species.

But beyond the numbers, ARPA is more than just a program to create protected areas.  “It has changed the face of land use and helped putting a value on its resources, thus having a true impact on regional development,” notes Brazilian biologist and World Bank expert Adriana Moreira.  

More partnerships, less deforestation

Moreira explains that protected areas fall into two categories -”strict protection” and “sustainable use”-, which better balance conservation goals and the use of natural resources.

The former consists of National, state and municipal parks, as well as biological reserves and ecological stations. Sustainable use areas include extractive and sustainable development reserves.

ARPA requires that all protected areas should have ‘protection plans’ before a final management plan is set up. This has ramped up support for environmental enforcement, as well as strengthening partnerships with environmental law agencies and empowering protected areas managers and staff.

ARPA’s first success story is the Montanhas do Tumucumaque National Park, in Amapa province, and at 3.8 million hectares, it is the same size as Belgium.  “But creating Tumucumaque was relatively easy because it is an isolated area.

Consolidating an ecological station in an area such as Terra do Meio (between Para and Mato Grosso states), which is an agricultural and a deforestation frontier, was a lot more challenging,” noted Moreira.

While acknowledging that deforestation still takes place within protected areas, experts agree that  it is a lot less aggressive than elsewhere, with deforestation  7 to 11 times less likely within protected areas than outside them.