The Amazon is a precious natural resource subject to significant human pressures. Identifying these pressures and understanding how they are related is critical for successful forest management. Traditional forest assessments look at only one or two pressures at a time, such as logging and agriculture. That isn’t enough. WRI and its Brazilian partner Imazon have created a new set of forest maps that include the impacts of civic construction projects, human settlements, fires, and mining operations on the Amazon, thereby providing a more complete picture. We believe these “human pressure” maps will guide better policy decisions. Already, Brazil has used these maps and analysis to establish federally protected areas and state forests, setting aside 9.5 million hectares of important intact rainforest.
WRI opened its Brazil office in 2013. We work with leaders in business, government, and civil society on issues surrounding cities and transport, climate change, finance, and sustainable landscapes. Learn more about our work in Brazil.
The world's cities are about to get a lot busier. Today, more than 50 percent of the global population lives in cities; by 2050, that figure will have risen to 75 percent.
This mass migration to cities could result in crowded streets rife with air pollution, traffic accidents and congestion. Or it could see a boom in clean, compact urban centres with safe, healthy communities. The way the world's cities operate in the future will be shaped by how they are designed and developed now.
Brazil currently ranks fifth in the world in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The country’s energy mix, long dominated by hydro power, is trending towards fossil fuels, and the Brazilian general public is increasingly concerned with climate change.
Although not bound by Kyoto Protocol GHG emissions limits, Brazil is committed to fighting global warming. In partnership with WRI and other organizations, the Brazilian government launched the Brazil GHG ProtocolProgram, a voluntary public registry of corporate greenhouse gas emissions. Participants will log annual inventories of emissions and will receive training on accounting practices and management reduction strategies. Sixteen major corporations joined the effort, the first program of its kind in South America.
Standardizing how greenhouse gases are measured and reported lays the foundation for future mitigation efforts. Our goal is to expand the program and bring GHG accounting tools and training to the agricultural, biofuel, and forestry sector, which are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil.
When Brazil secured its position as future host to both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, a new opportunity to upgrade urban transport came into focus. In 2009, the federal government announced $6.6 billion of funding for improved urban mobility to host cities, and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) became a central plank of this agenda. Around 500 km of BRT systems will be constructed in eight cities, almost doubling the current BRT lineage in all of Latin America.
EMBARQ’s Center for Sustainable Transport in Brazil (CTS-Brasil) convened a pivotal international event at which President Lula declared sustainable mobility a priority for Brazilian cities—marking the first time that a president of Brazil attended an urban transport event. CTS-Brasil leveraged its expertise, relationships, reputation, and political and technical leadership to promote high-quality BRT in four major cities:
- In Recife, CTS-Brasil introduced the BRT concept and technically supported the terms of reference for contracting a $1.3 million BRT engineering design study.
- In Belo Horizonte, CTS-Brasil delivered a strategic framing workshop to align stakeholders and identify potential risks to the implementation of the three planned BRT corridors.
- In Rio de Janeiro, CTS-Brasil applied the EMBARQ BRT Simulator to provide critical support the city’s candidacy as an Olympic site.
- In Porto Alegre, CTS-Brasil and EMBARQ played a vital role in acquiring $100 million financing from CAF, and convincing CAF to approve a $1 million, non-refundable grant for refining BRT studies.
CTS-Brasil also contributed to the editing of a BRT manual which will be distributed to all urban and metropolitan bus operators throughout Brazil.
These achievements pave the way for a consistent national sustainable transport policy. In recognition of CTS-Brasil’s contributions, the Ministry of Cities invited CTS-Brasil to a prestigious group of advisors to guide its criteria for federal financing of an additional $10 billion in sustainable transit solutions.
Rio de Janeiro is a leader among the Brazilian cities aggressively promoting low-carbon development. In 2011, the city passed a landmark climate change law with a target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 8% below the business-as-usual (BAU) emissions scenario by 2012, 16% by 2016, and 20% by 2020.
Now Rio is conducting a GHG inventory for 2012, the first target year under its climate change law. The inventory will measure the city’s emissions against its 8% reduction target for 2012, and assess the effectiveness of GHG mitigation actions implemented so far. On July 2, the city government of Rio invited me and my colleagues from the Greater London Authority and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (COPPE) to a seminar to share our experiences in conducting GHG inventories and to discuss Rio’s 2012 inventory. At the seminar, Nelson Moreira Franco, Director for Climate Change Management and Sustainable Development for the City of Rio, stressed that GHG inventories help identify emission sources and provide scientific evidence on GHG levels, so it is extremely important that the city gets it right. To me, the seminar covered four important items:
Brazil’s economy has been booming. During the past decade, it grew from the ninth to the sixth-largest in the world. While this growth has brought many socioeconomic benefits, it’s come with a downside: significant environmental impacts. Brazil has the highest rate of deforestation worldwide, while pollution threatens the country’s drinking water supply. Despite a decrease in national greenhouse gas emissions of late, agriculture emissions and energy demand are still rising.
Labeled the “queen of the forest” for its size and beauty, the Brazil nut tree plays an important social and environmental role in the Amazon. During the annual harvest, from November to March, when both its seeds and nuts are collected, the tree also provides a critical supplementary source of income for communities across the region.
While other natural resource management activities risk increasing deforestation in the Amazon, nut harvesting is not harmful to nature, since it depends on the forest’s continued existence. Local company Ouro Verde was created with this in mind, selling Brazil nut products marketed as sustainable, including extra virgin nut oil, nut butter and granulate. Ouro Verde created 47 jobs, and many more new business opportunities in the Amazon region, placing an economic value on the rainforest for local communities. About 1.3 million hectares of rain forest are sustainably managed by Ouro Verde supplier partners.
Ouro Verde is a shining example of the type of company WRI’s New Ventures project was created to support. Founded in 1999, New Ventures identifies, mentors, and provides promising small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with access to investment. New Ventures supports companies in six rapidly growing emerging markets – Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, and Mexico – where the environment and development decisions being made today will impact the entire world. To date, we have facilitated more than $225 million in investment and worked with 346 innovative enterprises.
In 2010, SMEs supported by New Ventures reduced CO2 by 135,021 tons, the equivalent of removing over 112,000 cars from the road for one year. In addition, 1,490,448 hectares of land – an area larger than Connecticut - was placed under sustainable management by New Ventures companies or was conserved by sustainable land use companies in the New Ventures portfolio.
Promoting forest protection and sustainable agriculture in the Amazon region is vital for local livelihoods and biodiversity, as well as for global climate regulation.
In early 2011, the state legislature of Mato Grosso, Brazil passed a controversial new state zoning law (ZSEE) that opened up 50,000 km2 of new forest areas for conversion to agriculture. In February 2012, following a high-profile civil society campaign and a public civil action suit, the law was suspended through an injunction by Mato Grosso’s State Court. The injunction states: “It is true that… there were… vices of form capable of undermining the law… However, more important is that by reason of these vices, there was impairment of natural goods and services and sustainable development, so there is a risk of impairment of human life. This is the strongest argument that… imposes the granting of the injunction.” In March 2012, Brazil’s Federal Zoning Commission ordered the state government to redraft legislation.
The Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV) – a founding partner of the Governance of Forests Initiative (GFI) – led the successful campaign by producing and distributing their analysis of the ZSEE / MT. This analysis was then used by civil society – including indigenous peoples, social movements, and researchers – as well as legislators and prosecutors in Mato Grosso. Civil society used all opportunities—such as seminars, public events, and protest letters—to denounce the new law. Meetings with more 250 people in attendance were convened.
Curbing Forest Loss
Within a month of the Governor sanctioning the new ZSEE, IMAZON, the other GFI partner in Brazil, documented a more than 500 percent spike in deforestation in Mato Grosso. The immediate public outcry, enforcement actions by the state, and the start of the state case in September, however, acted as immediate deterrents, and the rate of deforestation stabilized. However, without the decisions taken by the State Court and the Federal Zoning Commission, this increase in deforestation would likely have lasted longer, as the law effectively sanctioned past clearing and allowed new areas to be cleared.
These decisions marked an important victory for democratic decision-making and government accountability in a region where the rule of law relating to forests and agriculture is sometimes circumvented for political and economic gain.
Making Change Happen: WRI’s Role
GFI is a set of civil society organization partners in the United States, Brazil, Cameroon, and Indonesia dedicated to improving forest governance through evidence-based advocacy.
In 2010, WRI helped ICV to conduct a governance assessment of the Mato Grosso ZSEE process using a diagnostic tool, the GFI Framework of Indicators (v.1), developed by WRI, ICV, and IMAZON. ICV collected information and conducted interviews to compile a record of expert and civil society inputs into the bill’s drafting over 10 years, from 2000-2010. Armed with this evidence, ICV was able to quickly demonstrate the problems with the new law and start the outcry that led to this outcome.
With cities set to house almost 5 billion people by 2030, how urban transport systems are designed will be pivotal for local economies, public health, and the global environment.
In June 2012, Rio de Janeiro blazed a trail for sustainable transport when it launched a 56 km cross-city bus rapid transit (BRT) system. Designed and implemented with technical support from EMBARQ, the high-tech bus route carries 220,000 passengers a day, establishing best practice in bringing improved quality of life while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
BRT systems bring proven environmental, social, and economic benefits to crowded, congested, and polluted cities.
In Rio, the new BRT line, Transoeste, replaces short, fragmented bus routes with a rapid-transit corridor that gives priority to buses and enables passengers to cross the city on one bus instead of several. Pre-ticketing speeds journeys, as do dedicated BRT lanes and high-platform stations in place of roadside bus stops. For the first time, people from the west of Rio de Janeiro without cars can easily access opportunities in the far south.
The result is safer transport, shorter commutes, less pollution, and greater social inclusion. Typical travel time has been cut by at least half for 65 percent of riders. Surveys suggest 90 percent of passengers are satisfied with the new service. “Now I have one more hour to sleep in the morning and more time to play with my kids in the evening,” was one typical comment.
EMBARQ studies show road safety benefits from the BRT corridor. The BRT will save an estimated 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2016, as well as 148 million hours of passengers’ time.
Making Change Happen: WRI’s Role
EMBARQ promotes BRT routes and their critical role in sustainable, integrated public transport systems around the world.
In Rio, EMBARQ Brazil partnered with the Municipal Secretariat for Transport and Mayor Eduardo Paes in providing technical support for Transoeste. In addition to providing design and project management expertise, EMBARQ assisted with marketing the new transport system to residents and the media. We also guide continuing safety audits that will help maximize passenger safety benefits.
By 2016, the year Rio hosts the summer Olympics, city authorities plan to expand the BRT network to 153 km. This expansion would make it the largest BRT network in Latin America, carrying 1.2 million passengers daily. By showcasing the bus transportation of the future, Rio’s actions can help promote BRT scale-up across emerging economies.