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The Amazon Fund is in danger

Amazon Fund SallesBrazillian Minister for the Environment, Richardo Salles, threatens to dismantle the Amazon Fund. He believes that the fund has failed abmyssally. Photo: Aloisio Mauricio / Zuma / NTB scanpix

The future of the Amazon Fund is in danger

“It will be a huge relapse for the Norwegian rainforest investment If the Amazon Fund is shut down. This is a very important focus area for Norway,” Professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Arild Angelsen tells NTB.

 


Both Norway’s ambassador to Brazil, Nils Martin Gunneng, and Brazil’s Minister for the Environment, Richardo Salles, tells Brazilian media that the Amazon Fund can be shut down. The reason is a disagreement between the Brazilian authorities, Norway and Germany. Norway and Germany co-fund the Amazon Fund. The disagreement revolves around the management of it.

Salles wants both to reduce the steering committee from 23 to 7 members and increase the influence of the Brazilian authorities in the committee, according to the Brazilian newspaper Folha São Paulo.

Increase in deforestation under Bolsonaro

President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who is a climate sceptic, has since he ascended to power at the turn of the year, lifted or eased several measures to protect the world’s largest rainforest. The deforestation of the Amazon in Brazil in June this year was 88 per cent higher than in the same month last year. In total, 920 square kilometres of rainforest disappeared in June, Reuters writes.

Angelsen believes that the disagreement regarding the management of the fund is based on the fact that Bolsonaro’s government wants a different direction for the rainforest:

“They do not have rainforest protection as a prime priority, but rather want to use the rainforest to develop rural areas and focus on agriculture.”

“A closure of the Fund is far from being the most likely scenario, the Secretary-General of the Rainforest Foundation, Øyvind Eggen, tells Bistandsaktuelt.

“For example, because the Amazon State Government benefits greatly from the Fund. There is also much support for forest conservation in Brazil across the board, from the congress to various pressure groups. I believe it quite simply will cost too much politically to liquidate it. It is, however, not unthinkable. This has been smouldering for a long time,” Eggen explains.

Policy wins the war

The deforestation of the Amazon in Brazil has fallen sharply since the peak year in 2004. It continued to decline in the first few years after the Amazon Fund was established in 2008. Deforestation has, however, increased since 2012, despite the billions spent by Norway and Germany.

Norway has so far contributed NOK 8.3 billion to the Amazon Fund. The annual amount is based on a principle of the more cash, the lower the deforestation. The increased deforestation may thus mean that payments in the coming years will be very low.

Minister for the Environment, Richardo Salles, stated, in May, that there is no indication that the Amazon Fund has, factually, contributed to reducing deforestation.

“He has a point in that the big reduction that started after 2004 was before the fund saw the light of day,” Angelsen comments.

“I believe that the fund has had a positive effect, but that national policy is crucial. During the period the deforestation has picked up, they have had authorities that are less concerned with forest protection. One can say that projects, such as those supported by the fund, can win battles, but that is the policy that wins the war,” the Professor concludes.


Dialogue with Brazil about the Amazonas Fund

“From the Norwegian standpoint, the Amazon Fund has worked well until now. Minister for Climate and Environment,” Ola Elvestuen (Liberals), states. He warns against shutting it down.

“It will be a step backwards if the Amazonas Fund – which has been an inspiration for other forested countries – is discontinued. I want to do what I can in order for us to continue. It is, however, not appropriate to enter into a form of cooperation that weakens the basis for our partnership with Brazil,” Elvestuen emphasises.

There have been strong reactions to that Environmental Minister of Brazil, Ricardo Salles, has stated that there is a possibility that the Amazon Fund will be shut down. Salles wants changes to the Amazon Fund. This, among other things, to size down the fund’s board and strengthen Brazil’s federal authority’s position in the committee. Both Norway and Germany have, however, rejected these proposals.

The structure of the Fund

Elvestuen confirms that there is a dialogue about the governance structure of the Amazon Fund, which manages the funds that Norway has paid out to Brazil for reduced climate emissions from deforestation. The Norwegian and German Ambassador met with Salles yesterday for discussions on the future of the Fund.

“Norway’s goal is to continue the cooperation, even though we must recognise that the possibility exists that the fund will be wound up. Norway will continue the dialogue directly with Brazil, not through the media,” Elvestuen continues.

The Cabinet Minister emphasises that Norway will not be in favour of solutions that undermine the good results that have already been achieved – or compromise Norway’s principles regarding ‘good’ development aid.

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