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Toward forest-friendly growth in Brazil, the Congo Basin and Indonesia

The forest transition theory holds that economic growth and deforestation go hand in hand. What is happening in the Amazon, in the Congo Basin and in Indonesia does not necessarily follow that model. A seminar on forest-friendly growth in the three major tropical forest areas, held at the World Bank on February 28, 2013, gave the following food for thought.

  • Historically deforestation rates have accompanied rural economic growth but the scenario is different in Brazil. In part because of the government's efforts to limit deforestation by improving law enforcement, and in part because of productivity increases and a rise in commodity prices, the two curves have been decoupled in recent years. Paulo Barreto, Senior Researcher at Imazon, shared the following slide and chatted after the event.
  • Martin Tadoum, of COMIFAC, shared findings from the study on deforestation trends in the Congo Basin. Deforestation has accelerated in recent years and annual rates of both degradation and deforestation have almost doubled from 1990-2000 period to 2000-2005. Many signals point toward an acceleration of forest loss. Based on the forest transition theory, the Congo Basin may well be entering the second stage, with accelerated forest losses.

    So far, deforestation and forest degradation have been largely associated with the expansion of subsistence activities (agriculture and energy) and concentrated around densely populated areas. Local and regional development, population increases and global demand for commodities are likely to increase deforestation and forest degradation in the Congo Basin -- but a number of no-regrets policy actions could help steer growth in a forest-friendly manner.

    Carole Megevand, who led the study when she was working for the World Bank's Africa region, also found that raising agricultural productivity would not be a panacea for forest protection in the sub-region. Forest law enforcement and governance -- as well as the ability to plan and manage for different land uses -- are key to avoid a slide toward the path of least resistance: clearing more forest.

  • The last presentation was made by Agus Sari, Chair of a Working Group on Funding Instruments in the Presidential Task Force on REDD+ in Indonesia. Although he focused mainly on the financing challenge of making REDD+ work in Indonesia, he also stressed that improved legal enforcement -- people going to jail for illegal logging -- will be key to change behaviors in the country with the highest deforestation rate in the world. Indonesia has vowed to both reduce emissions from deforestation and keep growing the economy at a fast pace.

All three presentations are available on this page.

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