By Brent Heard, BS candidate in Economics and Environmental Policy at Carnegie Mellon University and a consultant for the National Academy of Sciences
This post originally appeared on Sense & Sustainability.
While most of the discussion about Brazil lately has been soccer-focused, eyes have also been turning toward their anti-deforestation policies. Brazil has long been the poster child for environmental damage and poor land management. The Amazon rainforest has been reduced in size by nearly 20% in the last 40 years, often due to cattle grazing, logging, and similar activities. However, as a result of innovative land-use policies, Brazil has managed to decrease deforestation by 70% in 8 years, from a ten-year average of 19,500 km/year in 2005 to 5,800 km/year in 2013. This reduction corresponds to 3.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide not released into the atmosphere, greatly enhancing efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation.
The incentives for deforestation have always been high for Brazil. The beef industry traditionally played a substantial role in Brazilian agriculture, demanding land for pasture. Additionally, as was noted in a paper published by Tropical Conservation Science, Brazil has been facing high international demand, and correspondingly high export prices, for soybeans, which has provided a substantial incentive for clearing rainforests to raise soy.