Could new plan offer fresh hope for sustainable Brazilian land use?

A new strategic plan sets out a ‘Green New Deal’ for Brazil based on the full implementation of the Forest Code as a vehicle for the country’s sustainable development.

The Brazilian Forest Code (Law No. 12651 of 2012), which requires landowners to maintain a specific percentage of native vegetation, has been in existence in some form since the 1960s, but has proved very difficult to enforce. In an attempt to better implement it, 11 years ago the government made it mandatory for all rural properties to be mapped and registered through a government system known as CAR (Cadastro Ambiental Rural), however, despite this, deforestation of the intended protected land remains commonplace.

Based on extensive analysis and using the wealth of data available, a consortium of the country’s foremost land-use experts has created a plan which offers a way to balance economic success with environmental protection, taking into account the ambitions of the rural sector and proposing a robust strategy towards efficient territorial management to strengthen the rural economy.

PlanaFlor’ was created by BVRio Brazil, the Brazilian Foundation for Sustainable Development (FBDS), the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) and the Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF-Brasil) with funding from the Norwegian government (Norad). Planaflor benefits from an Advisory Board with the participation of a group of senior professionals related to land use policy, led by former Minister of Economy Joaquim Levy.

The Executive Summary of the plan and 20 studies and thematic reports are now available, and are now being discussed with policymakers on a regional and national level.

“Four diverse institutions with a converging vision of sustainability and rural development have come together to offer society and the different levels of government a truly innovative vision of action. We expect it will benefit the process of land use policy making in Brazil.” – Walfredo Schindler, Executive Director of FBDS, and PlanaFlor Coordinator.

“There is now wide recognition that environmental sustainability is compatible with rural production. At the same time, there is a global trend towards valuing sustainable production chains, where products from sustainable sources will have a comparative advantage in domestic and international markets. The Forest Code provides a platform to propel Brazilian rural areas towards this new market environment, creating opportunities for investment, jobs, and commercial advantages in the international marketplace. PlanaFlor is designed to achieve these goals and help the nation capture the opportunity of a Green New Deal for the Brazilian rural environment.” Pedro Moura Costa, BVRio Director, and member of the PlanaFlor Advisory Board.

To be implemented fully, The Forest Code requires a great effort to coordinate and engage the different sectors of society involved with agricultural production and with the conservation and recovery of native vegetation, as well as the creation of instruments to leverage the opportunities that can be created by expanding rural production without destroying native vegetation and natural ecosystems. PlanaFlor was developed to fill the coordination role and establish a nationwide strategic plan to optimise efforts and overcome the barriers that hinder the implementation of the Code, and Brazil leading the world in developing a thriving green economy.

In a 8-year timeframe, PlanaFlor goes into detail about the potential costs and impact of its implementation, to deliver for the economy, environment, climate, sustainable agriculture and people.

With an estimated public cost of BRL 2.28 billion/year, PlanaFlor’s strategic objectives have the potential to positively impact GDP by BRL 6.2 billion/year and generate at least 2.4 million jobs and directly benefit more than 2.5 million rural workers. In addition, the plan paves the way for the conversion of 31.7 Mha of degraded pasture into low-carbon agriculture, which would alleviate the pressure for deforestation and leverage efforts to recover 12 Mha and protect 110 Mha of native vegetation.

The main strategies and actions suggested to leverage these benefits refer to investments in the expansion of agriculture in 15.7 Mha identified by the plan with high agricultural suitability and low potential for natural regeneration. Of these, 11.3 Mha are pasture areas with high and medium levels of degradation or underutilised, which must be converted to sustainable agricultural practices and which aim to improve productivity and environmental conservation, such as the integration of crops, livestock and forest (ILPF) and agroforestry systems, contributing directly to agricultural productivity and the reduction of deforestation.

The plan also identifies priority municipalities for strengthening family farming and optimising efforts to conserve native vegetation, especially in areas with Legal Reserve surpluses, and the recomposition of APP and Legal Reserve deficits.

By considering the conservation and recovery of forest areas as a way to guarantee the preservation of biodiversity, the protection of water resources and the mitigation of climate change, PlanaFlor defines the strategies and actions necessary to promote the sustainability of rural production in Brazil through more efficient agricultural practices with low environmental impact. In addition, the plan promotes inclusive development, which directly contributes to improving the living conditions of rural populations, reducing poverty and generating job and income opportunities.

PlanaFlor also directs the country towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and provides the basis for demonstrating commitment to the global environmental agenda and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, it opens up opportunities for commercial partnerships with demanding markets in relation to imports of commodities free of deforestation and environmental degradation.

Testimonials from the coordinating team of the PlanaFlor project:

Beto Mesquita, Director of Forests and Public Policies at BVRio, is also the leader of the Forest Code Task Force of the Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture, “PlanaFlor’s differential lies in the compilation and integrated analysis of a wide range of information and data related to rural production and the country’s environmental assets, as a basis for formulating strategies and actions with high potential for transforming the rural environment. Our focus is now.”

Maurício Moura Costa, CEO of BVRio, “The Forest Code provides a powerful tool that, if applied strategically and consistently with other public policies, is capable of maximising the sustainable development of the Brazilian rural environment, combating deforestation and consolidating the country as an international leader in sustainable agricultural production. This is the purpose of PlanaFlor.”

Pedro Gasparinetti, CSF Brazil Director: “The implementation of the Brazilian Forest Code can be boosted by several market mechanisms, such as the carbon market, which is growing fast. PlanaFlor was conceived exactly with this goal, to help Brazil envision opportunities for the implementation, monitoring, validation and evaluation of a series of new economic incentives and programs that reconcile rural production and socio-environmental sustainability.”