Brazil is at a crossroad. The current economic and political crisis have put at risk historic achievements in curbing deforestation in the Amazon while increasing commodity production. There are constant attempts to relax social and environmental protections presented as a necessary step to recover economic growth. In this context, efforts led by committed companies and civil society are ever more important to demonstrate that choosing a sustainable path makes sense for the economy and for the people.
One of the most relevant examples of such efforts is the Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture. The Coalition has brought together companies from different sectors and NGOs to define a common agenda for a low carbon economy in Brazil and to work with the government and other actors to implement it. When companies and NGOs walk together into government offices asking for the same thing, they can change deeply rooted assumptions of what is acceptable and desirable. Faced with this new type of advocacy, the Brazilian Ministry of Environment has just announced plans for ground-breaking levels of transparency for forestry activities in the country, a fundamental condition to increase the area of forests under sustainable management and to eliminate illegal logging. With a simple change in access to information, the burden of enforcing the law over vast areas of forests can be reduced by allowing buyers to better manage their supply chains and put in place effective market restrictions on illegally harvested wood.
Promotion of compliance with the Forest Code in commodities supply chains is another useful example of how the private sector can become a driver of positive change by building on public policies to achieve its goals. Realizing the importance of this legislation that regulates natural habitat conversion inside private lands, a group of NGOs joined forces under the Observatório do Código Florestal (Forest Code Watch) to monitor and promote its implementation. Under this umbrella, and using their collective knowledge on the matter, Proforest, BVRio and IPAM have been working on for the analysis of compliance with the Forest Code – to help Brazilian buyers of agricultural commodities assess their suppliers’ compliance and promote the implementation of the Forest Code. The guide will be launched in March 2017 with support from TFA 2020, CDP, Cargill and Nestlé. This is a practical example of how international players can build on nationally developed tools and policies to achieve their sustainability goals while contributing to local ownership of the results and the long-term governance of natural resources.
In fact, international actors can have a key role in helping Brazil choose a sustainable path at this crossroad. There is a worldwide movement for the elimination of commodity-driven deforestation. Companies, governments and civil society organizations have pledged their intention to join this movement individually or through the Consumer Goods Forum, the New York Declaration on Forests or the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020. TFA 2020 members are coming to Brasilia in March 2017 for the second General Assembly. This alliance of the willing is eager to learn how Brazil managed to decouple deforestation and commodity production in the Amazon with a combination of public policies and market measures but also taking into account the rising deforestation in the Amazon and other biomes that are in need of attention. Now, the support from international market leaders and examples of other countries that have chosen to tread a better path to growth can help Brazilian governments and companies to realize the long- and short-term benefits of fully embracing, and maybe leading, this movement, and continuing to find innovative collaborations and solutions.
The General Assembly of Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 will provide an in-person opportunity to engage with the international platform, joint discuss challenges and emerging models that can scale on the ground solutions and practical how the partnership can increase the momentum of these transformations. Topics of discussion will include the emerging jurisdictional approaches – the benefits and challenges, smallholder farmers engagement in the critical agenda, the important role of governments in tropical forest countries and donor countries and much more.