Brazil launches $204 million drive to restore Amazon rainforest

Listen to this article:

FILE PHOTO: Smoke billows from a wildfire in the Amazon rainforest near a dry river in Iranduba, Amazonas state, Brazil September 25, 2023. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly/File Photo

By Steven Grattan and Jake Spring

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s national development bank (BNDES) on Saturday launched an effort to restore degraded or destroyed woodland amounting to 60,000 square km (23,160 square miles) – an area nearly the size of Latvia – in the Amazon rainforest by 2030.

At the United Nations COP28 climate summit in Dubai, BNDES announced that the Arc of Restoration program, with funding of up to 1 billion reais ($205 million) through 2024, would also seek to capture 1.65 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere by 2030.

The Amazon is vital to curbing climate change because of the vast amount of planet-warming carbon its trees absorb and it is home to many unique and endangered species.

“Avoiding deforestation is no longer the answer to the climate crisis. We need to be more ambitious,” BNDES President Aloizio Mercadante said in a press statement.

“Let’s reforest, so that the forest regenerates. It’s the cheapest and quickest answer to the climate crisis because it captures carbon and stores it,” Mercadante said.

The BNDES program will release an initial 450 million reais this year.

Brazil’s top climate negotiator said in an interview last month that the country planned to launch the major restoration initiative, without giving details.

“This is a very ambitious project,” earth systems scientist Carlos Nobre at the University of Sao Paulo, who first proposed the concept for the Arc of Restoration, said in an interview.

“This project has been put in place now because the Amazon is nearing a point of no return, so this is a very important, urgent and innovative initiative,” he said.

Nobre is considered the godfather of a theory warning that deforestation and climate change could push the forest past a tipping point when it would die out and becomes a degraded savanna.

He said earlier this year that restoring some 700,000 square km (270,270 square miles) of the Amazon would help avert that tipping point, with just under half that area requiring active replanting. He estimated a total cost of at least $20 billion.

While scientists agree forests must be restored to meet the most ambitious climate targets, such efforts in practice are often confronted by lack of funding, technical challenges and hostile criminals seeking to profit off the forest.

($1 = 4.8801 reais)


For daily comprehensive coverage on COP28 in your inbox, sign up for the Reuters Sustainable Switch newsletter here.


(Reporting by Steven Grattan and Jake Spring; editing by Jonathan Oatis)