A new beginning for the Amazon in US-Brazil dialogues

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry met last week with a delegation of Brazilian ministers to discuss collaboration on solving one of our most important climate challenges: protecting the Amazon. In a tweet shortly after the meeting, Kerry noted when it comes to the climate crisis, “big impacts can only be achieved through global partnerships.”

It’s a welcome message from the Biden administration and a signal that after a prolonged period of polarization over Amazon conservation the space for dialogue and cooperation is reemerging.

Describing the meeting as long and “productive,” the two sides say they will continue to meet regularly in the lead-up to a planned “Earth Day Forum” on April 22. President Biden has expressed his interest in having Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attend the event, which is being held in preparation for the annual Climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland in November.

According to Brazil’s largest daily, Estado de São Paulo, during the Feb. 16 discussion, held virtually, the parties expressed their shared commitment to finding “sustainable and lasting solutions to common climate challenges.”

Between 2005-2012 Brazil’s Amazon became a beacon of hope to the world that through partnership and collaboration we could work collectively to protect our most precious natural resources and gain a foothold in the effort to slow climate change. Thanks to the robust dialogue that took place during this period between governments, farmers, forest communities, and environmental groups deforestation in Brazil plummeted 77%.

Tragically forest loss has since climbed precipitously, with 2020 marking the highest deforestation rate seen this decade. While the numbers remain well below Brazil’s historical average, the trend is deeply concerning and has raised international alarm bells over the fate of the world’s largest rainforest. It comes despite major new interventions to slow forest loss and, perhaps unsurprisingly, coincided with a breakdown in trust between environmental advocacy groups and Brazil’s farm sector, a key lynchpin in progress on the forest agenda for Brazil.

The current resumption of dialogue—part of Biden’s broader climate agenda—points to a potential thawing of the polarization that has stymied progress and suggests a welcome return to the collaborative approach that saw such tremendous success in years past. It is an approach that we at EII have continued to support in the clear-eyed knowledge that slowing the loss of forests in Brazil requires the engagement and cooperation of those closest to the forest—the farmers, indigenous and local communities, and regional governments responsible for carrying them out.

EII is currently supporting the governments of four Amazon States in Brazil—Acre, Mato Grosso, Pará and Tocantins—to move down the pathway of forest-friendly development, às we collaborate with the ministry of agriculture, farmers, indigenous communities and businesses who are doing their part to keep forests standing.

The lesson of the past decade is clear. Partnership, collaboration and a willingness to recognize our shared interest in a thriving and prosperous Amazon region are the only way forward. In this respect, the signs emanating from the United States and Brazil are encouraging. While we recognize the not insubstantial obstacles ahead, we are hopeful that this new chapter augurs a more positive future for the Amazon and the global climate.

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