For the last 17 years, the State of Acre, Brazil has conducted a massive, audacious experiment: to build an economy that keeps its forests standing, improves the livelihoods of its forest-dependent peoples, creates jobs, opens markets and attracts private investment. The “Government of the Forest” first took office in 1999, when Jorge Viana was elected Governor. Viana’s vision was to build the state’s economy on the legacy of Chico Mendes, the leader of the rubber tapper movement who was assassinated in 1988 for standing up to land grabbers. This vision has been continued by Jorge’s brother, Tião, who is now in his second term as Governor.
The Government of the Forest realized early on that a political platform built only on forest conservation and land rights was not enough to carry the vision to fruition. So it got to work putting in place the infrastructure, legislation, plans and industries that could help the state achieve its forest conservation and land rights goals while also achieving equitable economic growth.
A law to create incentives for ecosystem services (“SISA”) was approved by the state assembly, positioning Acre as the leading jurisdiction in the world for selling carbon credits. A state agency for sustainable business was established, and innovative industries started moving in.
And this grand experience has worked. In 2016, when deforestation rates across the Amazon increased 24%, Acre reduced deforestation 64% below it’s historical average.
Now Acre is being considered for linkage with California’s Cap and Trade program – an opportunity that would allow Acre to expand and “lock-in” its socially-inclusive, low-emission development model that is crucial for slowing global warming. Acre is on track to nearly match California’s emissions reductions by 2020, even though the Acre economy is 700 times smaller than that of its northern partner.
A new short video, co-produced by Earth Innovation Institute, Forest Trends and Nomoha Media, highlights the unique collaboration between Acre’s SISA system and the indigenous and traditional communities protecting the region’s forests and amplifies their call for a California-Acre partnership.