Cows, Cars, and Politics: Environmental Finance in Brazil

Steve Zwick

With just over a half-year to go before a new global climate-change accord is slated to be reached in Copenhagen, advocates of forestry offsets are keeping a close eye on Brazil. Environmental Economist Carlos Eduardo Young of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro knows that turf better than most. EM Audio caught up to him on the fringes of Katoomba XIV in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso.

6 May 2009 | Professor Carlos Eduardo Young attended his first Global Katoomba Meeting nearly a decade ago in his home base of Rio de Janeiro.

“We had just small rooms with a 20 or 30-person group discussing the potential of ecosystem services for the establishment of financial mechanisms to conserve biodiversity,” he recalled on the fringes of Kattomba XIV, which took place in Mato Grosso, Brazil, and drew more than 1400 delegates.

The meeting also served as the official launching pad for a new Brazilian law designed to bring federal and state environmental laws into synch and the Cuiaba Declaration, which urges Brazil’s federal government to embrace direct offset payments to domestic land-owners who conserve forests and thus reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).

“It’s really amazing to get…the governors of the Brazilian Amazon, which represents more than half of the Brazilian territory, together with the ministry of the environment, to discuss inside a Katoomba Meeting for the first time a specific instrument for protecting the forest, which is REDD,” he added in a wide-ranging half-hour interview that covered everything from the structure of Brazil’s federation, the importance of global climate change laws to the Brazilian economy, and the adaptation of flexible mechanisms to biodiversity.

“Forests have been largely looked at in this country – and actually in the whole Latin American region – as an economic problem rather than as an economic solution,” he says. “Now we have this snowball of not only ordinary people and academics but also politicians, state governors, and people from the federal government who realize that they have so much to win from changing a traditional perspective.”

But Brazil’s forestry policy has flown from the ministries of defense and energy instead of from the ministry of the environment, for reasons Dr. Young discusses below.

Steve Zwick is Managing Editor of Ecosystem Marketplace. He can be reached at [email protected].

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