May 23, 2024

Regime change in Brazil mobilizes Europe’s aid for rainforests

When Jair Bolsonaro stepped down as Brazil’s president, Amazon’s funding was frozen. His departure reignited European interest in efforts to protect the Earth’s so-called lungs.

The Amazon Fund (or Fundo Amazônia in Portuguese), set up by Norway and Brazil in 2008, is the main joint instrument used by Europe to invest in projects in the Brazilian region of the Amazon forest. Currently, 93.8 percent of funding comes from Norway, with 5.7 percent donated by Germany and 0.5 percent from Brazilian state-owned oil and gas company Petrobras.

However, under Bolsonaro, the committees responsible for managing the fund were disbanded. Alarm bells ringing for environmentalists: A mechanism that brought in R$ 3.4 billion (equivalent to 616 million euros) in donations to prevent deforestation of tropical forests is at risk.

But since Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva won the last election and passed legislation to restore funding in January, the initiative is back on track — and drawing more attention from European countries.

Norway, Germany, France, Switzerland and the United Kingdom

Norway and Germany have announced they are restarting the money supply.

Norway is expected to be a major donor in the coming years. Fernando Mathias, a political advisor at the Norwegian Rainforest Foundation, has lived in Norway for many years and works on environmental cooperation between the two countries. Oslo has a long tradition of international cooperation and has invested heavily in tropical forests, he told Euronews:

“Amazon funding is part of the Norwegian government’s broader policy, which is very focused on its climate and forest strategy,” Mathias said.

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“Norway has a tradition in international cooperation and is one of the few countries in Europe that spends 1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on international cooperation. Although a small country, it plays an important role on the international stage.” , he added.

France is also now considering supporting the fund, as Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna explained during an official visit to Brazil in February:

“France is exploring the possibility of bilateral contribution, but the EU is also very seriously considering the possibility of contribution. [zum Amazonas-Fonds] Then,” Colonna told a press conference in Brasilia.

Switzerland has also expressed interest:

“Switzerland has discussed the Amazon fund in informal exchanges with Brazilian intermediaries. A contribution to the fund is currently being considered,” a government spokesman in Bern said in December.

The UK said it was exploring the possibility of joining the fund’s support group, but gave no information on the size of its contribution.

“Our ministers received a request from several representatives of Egypt’s caretaker government during the COP27 climate conference on whether Amazon would like to join the fund, and we are evaluating the possibility,” the UK embassy in Brazil said in a statement to Euronews in December. . Egypt hosted COP 27.

Outside of Europe, U.S. involvement has yet to be confirmed, but analysts expect around $50 million in donations.

Donations have “geopolitical value”.

According to Adriana Ramos, a consultant at the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), a civil society organization in Brazil, Amazon financing is attractive to foreign countries because it represents a cost-effective strategy for investing in tropical forests. In the past, Adriana was the civil society representative on the board overseeing the fund’s strategy.

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“There is a political interest in supporting a new government committed to reducing deforestation, but there is also a more practical reason for European countries to support it. It is cost-effective for them,” Ramos told Euronews.

“These countries have already committed to reducing their emissions, so they have a direct interest in forest carbon. While investing in the Amazon Fund doesn’t provide direct credits to offset their own emissions, it creates a kind of diploma. It has huge geopolitical value.”

The money from this fund is intended to fund projects for forest conservation and sustainable development. The application is monitored by the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES).

Donations received so far have been used to finance 102 projects run by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or government agencies such as the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA). According to government agency reports, the projects have so far positively affected 207,000 people, most of them Amazonian residents.

Another reason new donors will join the Amazon Fund in the future is that the positive impact of projects can be easily measured through the existing governance structure, says Eugenio Pantoja, director of public policy at the Institute for Environmental Research in Amazonia. (IPAM), which has participated in periodic evaluations of the Fund.

The new study was published in late February Critique of evolutionary political economy The Amazon Fund’s positive impact is “largely due to its interconnected innovative dimensions: the Fund’s multi-stakeholder governance, its donor-based pay-for-performance structure and non-reimbursable financing of projects. Carried out by BNDES.

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New projects in the pipeline

Countries in Europe are well aware of the importance of tropical forests in combating climate change and biodiversity loss, and governments across the continent are citing this importance as motivation for new contributions to the Amazon Fund.

The importance of the Amazon forest to climate change was underlined by Switzerland’s Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Amazon Fund is expected to begin picking up new projects in the next few months, including those suspended in 2019 to resume after Bolsonaro dissolved the governing bodies that allowed the mechanism to distribute its funds.

Environmentalists expect the fund to focus on sustainable development of small-scale production in the Amazon, supporting indigenous communities and, of course, monitoring and combating illegal logging.

“If European countries agree to fund the fund, they are actually funding the Brazilian government’s public policies aimed at reducing deforestation in the Amazon,” IPAM’s Eugênio Pantoja told Euronews.

“This is not just an investment in the forest: it also ensures support for these three key measures for years to come, and is a very important statement.”