The Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council in Washington DC on Wednesday October 21, 2015 approved what it has described as “a first-of-its-kind multi-million-dollar” project to help protect over 80 percent of the Amazon and boost efforts to combat climate change.
The GEF will commit $113 million for the Amazon Sustainable Landscapes Programme, a regional programme spanning Brazil, Colombia and Peru that is expected to leverage $682 million in additional financing and span over five years.
The programme aims to maintain 73,000,000 hectares of forest land, promote sustainable land management in 52,700 hectares, and support actions that will help reduce CO2 emissions by 300 million tons by 2030. It will be implemented by the World Bank as lead agency, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
For the first time, a programme will take an integrated approach to protecting the Amazon ecosystem, the operators said in a media statement, adding that iIt will protect globally significant biodiversity and mitigate climate change by implementing policies to foster sustainable land use, protected areas management and restore vegetation cover.
“The Amazon plays a critical role in global climate regulation as well as in the region’s environmental and economic prosperity, and is the single largest repository of biodiversity on the planet,” said Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson. “Together, Brazil, Peru and Colombia are responsible for about 83% of the Amazon basin within their territories. For the first time the concerned countries and partner agencies have come together to design an integrated, coordinated approach to the sustainable management of a significant portion of the Amazon ecosystem,” she said
“The World Bank, as lead implementing agency, is fully committed to working with the countries and agencies involved to increase collaboration in learning and capacity building on best practices to maintain forest resources, protect biodiversity and enhance forest management within critical landscapes to benefit people’s livelihoods and long-term well-being,” said Paula Caballero, Senior Director of the World Bank’s Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice.
This Programme builds on many decades of work in the Amazon by governments, bilateral and multilateral agencies, NGOs, CSOs, and private donors.
At the 49th session of the Council meeting, Brazil and Colombia representatives expressed their desired hope for continued collaboration and celebrated the unprecedented progress already made by the programme in terms of information sharing between countries.
“In Brazil over the last 10 years, we have reduced deforestation in the Amazon by 82%. We have recognised 13% as indigenous lands, and established 27% of protected areas,” said Ana Cristina Barros, Secretary of Biodiversity and Forests of Brazil’s Ministry of the Environment. “The book of destruction is over. Building on previous success, we are now writing a beautiful story on forest restoration with a happy ending.”
Meanwhile, Colombia has launched its “Visión Amazonía,” targeting the expansion of the Chiribiquete National Park and consolidation of its buffering zone as part of a larger deforestation reduction programme.
“Colombia has been working on connectivity strategies between conservation areas and strengthening of public, private and community stakeholders for the implementation of strategies which promote the maintenance of ecosystem services, traditional knowledge, low carbon rural development and peacebuilding, that we are looking forward to sharing with the other countries in the programme and learning from Brazil and Peru,” said Ms. Gaia Hernández Palacios, Head of the International Affairs Office of Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, and Political Focal Point for the GEF.
Peru, for its part, has a national Strategy for Forest and Climate Change that tackled the reduction of deforestation and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
“The threats to the Amazon forests and rivers related to export markets, transport infrastructure development, illegal activities, social inequality and poverty are growing. It is only through strong cooperation among our three countries that we can expect to succeed in preserving biodiversity and forests in the Amazon,” said Mr. Gustavo Suarez de Freitas, Coordinator for the National Programme for Conservation of Forests in Peru’s Ministry of Environment.
The Amazon Biome is an incredible repository of biological diversity, with over 16,000 known tree species, and 2,500 species of fish. While the area is predominantly covered by dense moist tropical forest, less extensive areas include savannas, floodplain forests, grasslands, swamps, bamboos, and palm forests, and 14% of the Amazon is wetlands. There are about 33 million people living in the amazon watershed, deriving their livelihoods from rivers and tributaries, including fisheries, one of the most important services.