BRASILIA (Reuters) - The best way to further reduce deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is paying owners to preserve their land, and Brazil plans to discuss how to fund such a program at a climate summit next month, the country’s environmental minister said on Monday.
Brazil wants to switch from stick to carrot in its fight against deforestation, with Minister Jose Sarney Filho telling reporters that enforcement and penalties used to decrease the clearance of forest will not be enough.
The Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest tropical one, soaks up vast amounts of carbon and its preservation is seen as vital in the fight against climate change.
Sarney Filho told reporters that payments for so-called “environmental services” to landowners who maintain a minimum percentage of their land in its natural state, is the next step.
“Command and control has already reached its limit. If we don’t immediately start to demonstrate that forest services will be fairly paid, we will have serious problems,” Sarney Filho said.
In the Amazon, landowners generally must maintain 80 percent of their land in their natural state while being allowed to develop the other 20 percent with the rate varying for different biomes.
“We need to start discussing the reward to those that preserve their land,” Sarney Filho said.
The matter of how to value and fund this preservation will be featured at next month’s UN climate change conference in Bonn, Germany, on guidelines related to the Paris climate accord.
It will be the first meeting of the group since U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans to pull the United States out of the Paris Accord, which seeks to limit the rise in temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.
While programs like the Amazon Fund, which is sponsored by Norway and Germany, pay for efforts to stop deforestation, they do not pay these types of rewards to landowners, Sarney Filho said.
He did not offer specifics on how to pay for them.
Brazil is drawing up a national plan for implementing the Paris Accord after seeking opinions from companies, environmentalists, indigenous groups and others.
Sarney Filho said he expects carbon emissions to fall in Brazil this year, corresponding to a 16 percent drop in deforestation between August 2016 and July 2017 from the year-earlier period.
Reporting by Jake Spring; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe