It's early in the United Nations international climate change summit in Paris, but deforestation is already on the chopping block with discussion scheduled for Tuesday.
A special meeting Tuesday with Prince Charles and leaders from South America is set to draw attention to shrinking forests and how they impact climate and the environment, but Brazil can enter talks with some confidence.
Brazil has cut down on illegal deforestation by 80 percent since 2003, according to a study published Monday in the Journal, "Global Change Biology." Using a combination of public policy, market incentives, and stepped-up enforcement, the country reduced its carbon dioxide emissions due to deforestation from 1.76 gigatonnes in 2003 to 0.428 gigatonnes in 2012.
Brazil's progress may serve as a model for other nations. Much of its work has been offset by rising deforestation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Peru, and other tropical countries. Before the meeting, Peru's Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said new action by private companies must be part of the talks about limiting deforestation.
Brazil has successfully used private companies in its multi-pronged work to slow deforestation. One striking example is the cattle industry, where a series of binding agreements committed slaughterhouses to refusing cattle grazed on deforested land, The Christian Science Monitor's Pete Spotts reported. Business has boomed – the largest company expanded from nine slaughterhouses in 2008 to 32 in 2015 – but the same large company stopped buying cattle from ranches using deforested grazing land. While 36 percent of the ranches used deforested land in 2009, only 4 percent did by 2013.
Experts say stopping the last of the Amazon's illegal deforestation requires more creativity. Enforcement of existing laws contributed the most to dropping rates of deforestation, Daniel Nepstad, executive director at Earth Innovation Institute, a research organization for sustainable farming methods, told the Monitor in mid-October. Small-scale operations are the remaining culprits, meaning they may respond best to more "carrots" – positive incentives to the farmers and ranchers who abstain from clearing land.
The climate talks may need to inspire Brazilians and other officials into the next phase, as 15 nations with tropical rainforests have pledged to decrease by half their carbon emissions from deforestation by 2020.
This report includes material from the Associated Press and Thomson Reuters Foundation.