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Forest restoration creates economic opportunities

Forest restoration is one of Brazil’s contributions to the new global agreement with focus on climate change, to be signed during the COP 21. The goal contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions and can push forward economic activities that combine environmental and socioeconomic benefits of the rain forest.

São Paulo, November 19, 2015 – Brazil has pledged to restore and reforest 12 million hectares of forest by 2030 for multiple uses as their contribution to a new global agreement that will be signed in Paris during COP 21, the UN Conference on Climate Change. This goal can be more ambitious with the implementation of the Forest Code. Moreover, this commitment to the restoration will strengthen a new, inclusive and sustainable economic activity based on the development of native species forestry. For this, The Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture points out that it is necessary to initiate a discussion with civil society to understand what the challenge of large-scale restoration means.

The way a forest is restored or recovered influences the type of services and products that it can offer. The scope of possibilities begins with the natural regeneration and — from the point of view of human intervention — it will gradually change until it reaches the intensive cultivation of native species. It can be associated with exotic species or they can be used only as starters in order to generate funds for the restoration of native species. “Any type of restoration is positive for ecosystem services. To meet the demand for wood products, it is important to have an intensive and controlled restoration process, with the cultivation of native species with commercial potential using appropriate forestry techniques”, explains Roberto Waack, Chairman of the Board of Amata.

In practice, forests offer three types of products and services to the society. The first product is the ecosystem services, such as soil and water conservation by preventing erosion, regulating the water cycle and increasing the amount of carbon in the system. The second one is the non-timber products — food, fiber, raw materials for cosmetics and medicines. They are important sources of food and income for smallholders and local communities. The third one is wood, a product that belongs to an economically more consolidated industry. Timber harvesting still has many challenges, but it moves billions of reais per year in the Brazilian economy.

Urgency for regulation

The Forest Code is one of the foundations for forest restoration, so it can happen in an appropriate way and on a large scale, bringing up the economic potential of forests in Brazil. Our legislation establishes that every rural property has an area of legal reserve with native vegetation that can be used for productive purposes. However, it does not specify what kind of production is allowed. “This is necessary and urgent”, says Rachel Biderman, Director of WRI Brazil (World Resources Institute). “While we do not have a production regulation for legal reserves, the country’s forest restoration agenda will not move forward.”

Moreover, the Forest Code has also an important role in defining the actual area to be restored in the country. Although the Brazilian INDC (contribution presented to reduce and remove greenhouse gases) has established a goal to recover and reforest 12 million hectares of multiple use forests, the size of the area to be reforested will only become clear with the implementation of the Rural Environmental Register (Cadastro Ambiental Rural, CAR) provided by the Code. “This information to be provided by the Rural Environmental Register will serve as reference for proposals that promote the country’s forestry potential”, says Marina Campos, forest restoration expert at the TNC (The Nature Conservancy).

Another key factor to achieve the goal is the creation of a national program of research and technology development for the cultivation of native species with economic purpose. “As we learn to cultivate and to deal better with native trees for the purpose of economic activities, and as we promote forest recovery and contribute to the reduction of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, the forests will become an economic component. Thus, landowners will feel motivated to plant and preserve them”, says José Luciano Penido, Chairman of the Board of Fibria Celulose.

From this perspective, the amount spent on reforestation would be compensated not only by environmental but also by financial benefits. “The costs of restoration vary greatly and it is important to know where and how to promote it. But first it is necessary to clarify the production process in legal reserve areas and to develop research and technologies related to native species with economic potential”, adds Ivone Namikawa, Forest Sustainability Coordinator at Klabin.

Mechanisms to enhance values

The use of economic instruments, such as payment for ecosystem services, is another mechanism to encourage restoration and reforestation. The Brazilian Coalition supports, among other ideas, the creation of a global mechanism for the annual payment of ecosystem services as a way to encourage the preservation of forests and other biomes and generate resources for investment in restoration.”Those who protect and recover forests help to ensure the supply of water, the carbon capture, the pollination and other environmental services. By keeping these services, landowners can receive a payment”, says Miriam Prochnow, Executive Secretary of The Brazilian Forests Dialogue (Diálogo Florestal) and Counselor of the Association for the Preservation of the Environment and Life (Associação de Preservação do Meio Ambiente e da Vida, Apremavi).

Finally, the Brazilian Coalition is closely monitoring the development of the National Native Vegetation Recovery Plan (Plano Nacional de Recuperação da Vegetação Nativa, Planaveg). This plan is being prepared by the federal government and deals with different mechanisms — increase of the quantity and quality of seedlings and seeds, and expansion of technical assistance and financing — in order to promote the recovery of at least 12.5 million hectares of the country’s native forest over the next 20 years. “Planaveg is not ready yet, but it can be an important tool and public policy to help in the implementation of the Forest Code and to consolidate a new forest economy based on restoration and reforestation. It can also encourage good practices and management, which is aligned with the proposals of the Brazilian Coalition”, says Miguel Calmon, Senior Manager of the program for forest landscape restoration at IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), an organization that participates in the Planaveg.

The challenge of turning 12 million hectares in forests that produce ecosystem services and timber and non-timber products by 2030 is not trivial. It will only be possible by recognizing the economic and social value of restored areas, by connecting the various sectors of society and through networks with clear goals and defined governance space.

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