SAO PAOLO, Brazil _ Virgilio Viana, one of Brazil’s leading movers and shakers on climate change and rainforests, said he is optimistic his country will agree this year on a national legal framework that could pave the way for significant funds to pour in from overseas to save the Amazon.
The money would be linked to REDD+, a global climate change mechanism for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, as well as the conservation and sustainable management of forests (REDD+).
“The biggest challenge we have at the moment is to have a legal framework. We don’t yet have a law at the federal level that deals with the concept of payment for environmental services and deals with carbon so that you can have contracts and programs developed under such a framework,” Viana said in an interview. “I am optimistic we will have a change within this year to have it passed in Congress.”
Viana is the director-general of the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation, which manages the Bolsa Floresta Program, the Amazon’s first independently validated REDD project where locals are being rewarded for protecting their forests, and reducing carbon emissions in the process. His project covers more than 10 million hectares of forest in the Amazon and reaches 32,000 people.
Norway has promised US$1 billion to Brazil’s Amazon Fund, which is working to get REDD+ off the ground. Substantially larger sums may become available if Brazil was to establish laws that would pave the way for it to tap financing from the carbon markets should REDD+ be included in future international carbon offset schemes.
Viana said that one of the challenges of developing an effective federal framework is that Brazil is a highly ecologically heterogeneous country, with large areas of savannah, drylands and rainforests along the Atlantic coastline, beside the Amazon.
“One of the challenges is to design a system of REDD that is able to deal with all these different situations and conditions,” Viana said.
Another challenge is deciding the roles of the various levels of government – the federal, states and municipalities – as well as that of the private sector.
“The federal law is setting up the concepts and the overarching framework. A lot of the regulations will have to be done either by the government agencies at the federal level or by the states. I think that in order to have an adequate benefit-sharing mechanism we have to have a flexible one that is able to deal with all the realities of Brazil,” Viana said.
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