Amazon stakeholders share perspectives at Climate Week NYC

Amazon forests play a critical role in sustaining life on Earth; they produce essential water vapor, host an immense diversity of plant, animal, and insect species, and act as a major natural carbon sink. Any viable solution to global climate change requires conservation of the Amazon forest.

Deforestation occurs across the entire region, but to differing extents and for different reasons. Land in the Amazon can be divided into four broad categories: large farms, small farms, Indigenous territories and protected natural areas, and undesignated lands. Stopping deforestation requires strategies that address the needs of those who inhabit, use, and manage the diverse areas. Additionally, scientists are working to map the ecological, social, and economic potential of undesignated lands to properly advocate for conservation.

Research area

Above: Webinar presenters and panelists.

Top row: André Guimarães, Marcia Macedo, Michael Coe

Bottom row: Felisbela Maria Costa Santos, Walelasoetxeig Paiter Surui, Marcello Brito

In partnership with IPAM Amazônia (Amazon Environmental Research Institute), Woodwell Climate Research Center has developed a plan to increase global food security and well-being while decreasing deforestation. After 25 years of work in the field, Woodwell Climate hosted a Climate Week NYC webinar to underscore the importance of collaborative effort and give a platform to leaders with experience on the ground. The webinar highlights the specific needs of each stakeholder group while advocating for a common goal.

© Chris Linder

Michael Coe, Director of Woodwell’s Tropics Program, and André Guimarães,  IPAM Amazônia Executive Director, spoke with  Marcello Brito, Chairman of the Brazilian Agribusiness Association, about the establishment of incentives for large farmers to restore and conserve forests on private property.

Soy farming and cattle ranching are leading drivers of deforestation in the Amazon, and agribusiness is a critical part of Brazil’s economic development, noted Brito. But, rather than an adversarial approach, the next step, Brito believes, “is to invest in the [growing] agro-environmentalist sector.” Woodwell Climate and IPAM Amazônia are advocating for financial incentives to spur this investment, simultaneously supporting and reforming the industry.

© Chris Linder

Already, assistance from climate scientists has proven economically advantageous for small farmers, who have received technological support and guidance to increase both the output and sustainability of their businesses. 

“We were working without assistance, and didn’t even know where to start, so IPAM brought technical assistance to all farmers in the vicinity of the Trans-Amazon highway,” says small farmer and entrepreneur Felisbela Maria Costa Santos. “With the arrival of IPAM, the region became a big success. IPAM brought renewal, and a new kind of agriculture. They brought financial support, but more than that they brought us the knowledge we have today.”

© Chris Linder

Woodwell Climate and IPAM Amazônia scientists provide technical knowledge and assistance to engage and empower Indigenous communities while quantifying the importance of forest protection to climate stability. Scientists support sustained action against climate change spearheaded by organizations such as Associação Kanindé, an association that supports the Indigenous communities in Rondonia state, Brazil. Across the Amazon, illegal invasions have led to forest degradation and burning within Indigenous Territories. 

Walela Suruí, a law student and Indigenous activist of the Paiter Suruí people, spoke to the audience of the Climate Week NYC event to urge public action. “We have been fighting this fight for 500 years. We will not stop now. We will not give up now. Our hope is that more people will join us in the fight. That they understand the importance of standing forests. That they understand the importance of protecting the rights of Indigenous people—and Indigenous people themselves. So I want to take the opportunity to ask those of you watching to join with these communities—not only Indigenous people but all communities who fight for standing forests, and who understand its importance to people that live there and to the world.”

To learn more about and support this work, please visit Ending Amazon Deforestation.

Author Anabelle Johnston