Leaders representing Amazon rainforest nations have gathered in Belem, Brazil, to address pressing challenges afflicting the Amazon ecosystem. The meeting, organised by the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO), brings together representatives from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.

The countries seek to collaborate on a comprehensive strategy for the conservation and sustainable management of the world’s largest tropical rainforest.

Commencing on Tuesday, the summit is expected to span two days of discourse. The timing of the conference is timely and interesting, coinciding with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s recent election.

President Lula pledged to eliminate Amazon deforestation by 2030. This stands in contrast to the unregulated development and environmental degradation that marked his predecessor’s tenure. In July of this year, deforestation within the Brazilian Amazon experienced a reduction of at least 60% when compared to the same period in the previous year.

During his opening remarks at the summit, President Lula underscored his determination to forge a shared policy to safeguard the Amazon rainforest and its biodiversity. He voiced his optimism about the gathering outcomes, highlighting the unified approach to Amazon preservation, security enhancement, and improved border management among the key objectives.

The Amazon rainforest, spanning an area twice India, stretches across eight countries and one territory. Its ecological significance, as a global carbon sink and a habitat for countless species, makes it an essential player in mitigating climate change and conserving biodiversity. However, the region has been plagued by deforestation, illegal logging, mining, and land encroachment. This is fuelled by economic interests that often conflict with environmental concerns.

Conference Opportunity

The conference presents an opportunity for Amazon rainforest nations to collectively address these pressing challenges and develop coordinated strategies for long-term protection.

Carbon dioxide emissions, a driving force behind the ongoing climate crisis, have prompted scientists and environmentalists worldwide to search for solutions to mitigate their impacts. Amazon’s role as a significant carbon sink, where it absorbs a substantial amount of carbon dioxide emissions, has been a beacon of hope in this battle. However, the escalating menace of deforestation jeopardises this contribution.

Deforestation not only diminishes the Amazon’s ability to sequester carbon dioxide but also contributes to an alarming increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

It leads to reduced rainfall and heightened temperatures, and triggers ecological imbalances that disrupt ecosystems, imperil biodiversity, and challenge human livelihoods.

According to a study, nearly half of the deforestation in the eastern Amazon must be remedied to maintain the region’s vital role as a buffer against climate change.

President Jair Bolsonaro’s (before Lula da Silva) administration advocated for increased economic development within the Amazon region, a stance that triggered a series of negative consequences for the environment.

Data from the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Pact revealed that the Amazon biome suffered a loss of over 85,000 square kilometers, amounting to approximately 13 percent of its original extent. Carbon emissions from the Amazon experienced a staggering 117 percent increase in 2020 when compared to the annual average for the period from 2010 to 2018.

Advancements in technology, highway construction, and a soaring global appetite for beef and grains have propelled the expansion of activities that undermine the Amazon’s delicate balance.

The Brazilian state of Para has been particularly vulnerable to these forces. Approximately 41 percent of the total deforestation in the Amazon occurs within the state. The shift to large-scale cattle production has earned Para the status of being the leading emitter of greenhouse gases among all Brazilian states.

Other Threats to Amazon Rainforest

Beyond deforestation, the Amazon faces other threats. Massive hydroelectric dams, especially in Brazil, have drawn scrutiny.

In the meantime, the notorious state has emerged as a focal point for a burgeoning industry tied to carbon credits.

Carbon credits operate on a simple principle: organisations generating pollution purchase credits, with each credit representing one metric ton of captured carbon dioxide (CO2). These credits form a market, like other commodities, with prices determined by supply and demand.

Pará’s journey towards carbon credits is a strategic step towards environmental redemption.

Infrastructure investment compounds the challenges. Untreated sewage from local homes enters water bodies, creating a toxic cycle that endangers both the environment and human health. This pressing issue underscores the urgent need for holistic solutions that address economic growth and the preservation of the environment that sustains lives and ecosystems.

The ongoing summit marks the first convened by the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) since 2009.

The summit’s agenda has a collective determination to combat deforestation and confront organised crime issues that threaten the Amazon’s delicate balance. Central to this mission is the promotion of sustainable development within the region—an expanse inhabited by approximately 50 million people.

The summit’s anticipated conclusions include a declaration that outlines a plan and an agenda to guide participating nations’ actions in the years ahead. Gisela Padovan, a representative from the Brazilian foreign ministry, stated this declaration will be forward-looking and comprehensive, laying out a roadmap for cooperative efforts to preserve the Amazon and foster responsible development.

Brazil’s Impact on Amazon Rainforest

Given Brazil’s substantial economic influence and role as an influential model in the region, environmental policies hold significant sway. Brazil’s decisions often set the tone for neighbouring nations’ environmental stewardship approaches.

According to Brazil’s Environment Minister Marina Silva, a key objective of the summit is the establishment of a scientific entity like the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

This envisioned scientific panel would focus on sharing research and information relevant to the Amazon region. It would also underline the importance of international collaboration and knowledge exchange in addressing Amazon-related environmental challenges.

The panel’s primary responsibilities include monitoring climate change impacts on the Amazon rainforest and its broader ecosystem.