Brazil's forests are its historic first line of defense against water stress and water-related natural disasters, but now these forests are under pressure. Will Brazil increase investment in its natural infrastructure to defend against water crises?
Indigenous Peoples and local communities are the world’s secret weapon to preserve forests and mitigate climate change, and LandMark — the first global platform to provide maps of collectively held indigenous and community lands — helps measure their impact.
As co-chair of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which brings together 74 governments and thousands of civil society organizations, WRI worked with members to advance climate action and sustainable development. National, regional and local governments have made public commitments to accelerate climate action and sustainable development through citizen engagement, open data and fiscal transparency.
Failure to provide access to information on public spending and opportunities to engage in decision-making make it nearly impossible for the public to hold governments to account for progress on national climate goals or for effective use of government revenue from resources such as timber, mining and oil. Many governments are either unwilling to reform or lack the know-how to do so, undermining progress on the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Co-chairing the Open Government Partnership with France in 2016-17, WRI helped to design an OGP declaration with collective actions on climate and natural resources that helped frame national commitments, and provided technical assistance and circulated guidance to countries to develop them. WRI’s climate, forests and governance experts brought together civil society organizations to work closely with national governments, particularly in Latin America, to shape commitments that enhance transparency, participation and accountability on climate action and natural resources. WRI and its partners worked closely with Argentina and Costa Rica in developing their climate commitments and with Colombia, Liberia and Panama on their natural resource commitments.
WRI also helped pilot a subnational program in OGP to mobilize regional and local governments to develop and implement open government commitments. WRI teams in Brazil and Mexico partnered with NGOs and officials to create these commitments.
In 2016 and 2017, 13 governments committed to improve access to climate data, engage citizens in climate policymaking and transparently track climate finance; 12 governments made open government commitments on natural resources, including on land, forests and water.
Argentina, for example, committed to provide greenhouse gas inventories and maps of climate impacts on a public website, enabling citizens to participate in developing more effective, equitable climate policies and to hold officials accountable for meeting their climate commitments. On natural resources, Liberia pledged to place land records, contracts, community and customary land tenure data, and relevant laws and policies in the public domain, helping to prevent the abuse of power for private gain.
At the subnational level, the Brazilian cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and eight governments in Mexico announced reforms to deepen access to information and increase public consultation. After a successful pilot of its subnational program, OGP now plans to double its membership from 15 to 30.
By identifying opportunities for landscape restoration, the Restoration Opportunity Assessment Methodology that WRI helped to create informed decision-making in Brazil and Indonesia that led to new policies to advance large-scale restoration, offering the potential to foster prosperity and social inclusion while benefiting biodiversity and keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Brazil and Indonesia, two of the world’s largest tropical forest countries, have seen historically high deforestation rates since 2000 due to increasing pressure from development, agricultural expansion and illegal logging. Restoring degraded and deforested land in both countries could create economic opportunities and benefits for local communities and support the governments’ climate and development goals. Until recently, however, concerns about the cost of restoration hampered progress.
The Restoration Opportunity Assessment Methodology (ROAM), developed by WRI and IUCN in 2014, identifies opportunities for landscape restoration. In Brazil, WRI used ROAM diagnostic tools to support the development of the national restoration plan and helped to identify potential areas for natural regeneration. In Indonesia, WRI worked with the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), the South Sumatran government, the Provincial Watershed Forum and local restoration coalitions to apply ROAM in South Sumatra. ROAM showed a significant opportunity for natural forest regeneration and agroforestry and contributed to the development of a South Sumatra Green Growth Plan. In both countries, WRI worked with partners to identify cost-effective and scalable interventions to realize the restoration potential.
Brazil announced its National Policy on Recovery of Native Vegetation (PROVEG) in January 2017. This policy – the most ambitious of its kind in the world – creates and integrates policies, programs, financing, monitoring and other actions to spur native vegetation recovery to contribute to Brazil’s objective of restoring 12 million hectares (nearly 30 million acres) of degraded land by 2030, an area about the size of Iceland. These efforts will also support Brazil's commitments to the WRI-led Initiative 20x20, a regional initiative in Latin America to support the Bonn Challenge for global land restoration. In Indonesia, in May 2017, the Government of South Sumatra formalized the South Sumatra Green Growth Plan for economic growth driven by renewable resources, which aims to restore 400,000 hectares (988,000 acres) of degraded land by 2030.
If these ambitions are met, landscape restoration in Brazil and South Sumatra could keep hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and contribute to achieving emissions reduction targets of both countries as set in the Paris Agreement. Achieving these goals would also benefit biodiversity, reduce poverty, increase social inclusion and improve local economies.
WRI worked with the Brazilian government and others to shape new standards for social housing which discourage developments that are isolated from urban centers. A new law now drives implementation of compact, connected and coordinated (3C) development, potentially benefitting 1.8 million people through improved access to public transport and higher rates of walking and cycling.
The Brazilian social housing program Minha Casa, Minha Vida (MCMV or My House, My Life) aimed to tackle Brazil’s urban housing deficit by building more than 3 million houses for low-income families in the last six years. But MCMV’s building boom exacerbated urban sprawl. Many projects were located far from urban centers, where land prices were lower, hindering access to jobs, education, healthcare, public transportation and safe areas for walking and cycling.
In 2013, Caixa, Brazil’s federal funding agency, invited WRI Brasil to help improve the design of a MCMV project of 1,300 homes in the southern city of Rio Grande, making the development more compact, connected and coordinated by integrating it with public transportation, improving public spaces, making pedestrians and cyclists a priority and promoting mixed-use areas that include businesses and housing. Using this pilot, WRI worked with the ministries of Cities, Health, Education, Social Development and Culture, as well as the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and the Federal University of ABC in the state of São Paulo to create new federal social housing standards for the next phase of MCMV. This was the first time that these ministries worked together to improve the MCMV program. WRI conducted a countrywide study that found that providing essential services is costlier when creating distant communities that contribute to sprawl than when creating developments that are compact, connected and coordinated (3C).
In March 2017, the Brazilian government enacted a new law with standards which will drive implementation of the 3C model in MCMV’s next stage. The law discourages gated communities, requires connection to public transport and promotes walking and cycling. In the next two years, the new law and standards aim to guide the construction of 600,000 houses, potentially benefiting more than 1.8 million low-income people. Brazilian cities will benefit from reduced greenhouse gas emissions from transport and lower costs for urban services and infrastructure. WRI Brasil will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Cities and municipal governments to make social housing more sustainable and intends to evaluate the results of the law. Lessons from this experience could help other countries apply similar standards.
In Costa Rica, Liberia and Brazil advances in transparent, participatory governance are empowering citizens and ensuring better environmental and development outcomes.
New data on global tree cover loss shows that Brazil experienced a major spike in tree cover loss in 2016.