The Amazon: Seeing more of the wood and the trees

©Rickey Rogers/Reuters

Did you know that Brazil is among the most biodiverse countries in the world? Along with hosting one-tenth of all-known species of flora and fauna, it is home to the largest rainforest on the planet. 

The Amazon occupies nearly half of the country’s territory, sheltering more than 600 types of terrestrial and freshwater habitats, hundreds of indigenous peoples, and traditional communities such as rubber and other farmers. Illegal logging and land grabbing, driven by unbridled growth, rapid agriculture expansion and unclear legal land tenure, made the region a deforestation hotspot in the 1990s and early 2000s. But a sharp reduction of deforestation in the Amazon has cut Brazil’s carbon footprint by 40% since 2000, an OECD report says. 

Annual deforestation of the Amazon massively declined over the last decade, from 27 000 km2 in 2004 to about 4 800 km2 in 2014–a 75% decline. Brazil still experiences the world’s highest average annual loss in total forest cover though: an area equal to the size of Slovenia is lost every four years. However, progress must continue, as the OECD’s first Environmental Performance Review of Brazil urges.

Much of the credit for the reductions goes to government efforts and the expansion of protected areas over thousands of square kilometres, with the launch of the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of the Legal Amazon Deforestation in 2004 and the implementation of the Amazon Region Protected Areas programme, which has created more than 500 000 km2 of protected areas in the Amazon.

Since then, the forest cover–5 million km2 of Amazon and other Brazilian forests–has been monitored by satellite imaging, run by the National Institute for Space Research. The pillars of government actions over the last decade included restricting access to credit for landholders in municipalities with high deforestation levels, clarifying land tenure to combat land grabbing–thousands of rural land holdings have been granted property titles while hundreds of protected areas have been established–and issuing timber certifications.

In 2012, Brazil continued along this path, approving a new Forest Code: rural landholders are now required to set aside a share of their land for forest conservation or restoration in the Amazon; landholders must also register their lands and set aside areas in the Rural Environmental Cadastre by May 2016, which will be a condition for accessing rural credits as of October 2017. The Forest Code also introduced tradable forest rights: landholders who did not meet their set-aside obligations prior to 2008 can restore their tree cover or purchase an equivalent quota amount.

Besides regulatory tools, economic incentives were also used. The Bolsa Floresta, a conditional cash-transfer programme launched by the state of Amazonas in 2007, compensates rural families for conserving the forest areas they live in. Having provided income to more than 35 000 people so far, the programme has led to less deforestation.

International support has been critical: through the Amazon Fund, created in 2008 and managed by the Brazilian Development Bank, international donors are able to invest in deforestation prevention and forest conservation. Between 2009 and 2015, the fund accumulated more than US$970 million, mostly from Norway and Germany, and supported more than 70 projects.

Business actors have been involved too, through the Soya Moratorium, for instance. In 2006, following pressure from civil society, 47 global companies like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart decided to stop buying soya grown on cleared forestland in the Brazilian Amazon. As a result, the rate of soya field expansion through deforestation in the Amazon region fell from 30% in 2004 to about 1% in 2014.

Such integrated approaches involving government departments and business have helped curb deforestation: protected areas now cover 17% of Brazil’s territory, and only 5% of the deforestation that took place in the Amazon between 2008 and 2012 was within protected areas. The OECD encourages environmentally friendly tourism in protected areas. It also recommends that Brazil continue to fully implement the new forestry code and complement it with programmes for more attractive livelihood options to discourage illegal clearing.

Neïla Bachene

OECD (2015), OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Brazil 2015, OECD Publishing.  

©OECD Observer No 304, November 2015

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q4 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% Dec 2017 annual
Trade: +4.3% exp, +4.3% imp, Q3 2017
Unemployment: 5.5% Dec 2017
Last update: 23 Feb 2018


Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Ambassador Aleksander Surdej, Permanent Representative of Poland to the OECD, was a guest on France 24’s English-language show “The Debate”, where he discussed French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • Papers show “past coming back to haunt us”: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria tells Sky News that the so-called "Paradise Papers" show a past coming back to haunt us, but one which is now being dismantled. Please watch the video.
  • When someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. But I know that the reality is still so much different. By Alda, 18, on International Day of the Girl. Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2018