In the battle against Amazon deforestation, Brazil offers cash rewards to municipalities

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — In a bid to slow deforestation in the Amazon, Brazil announced Tuesday that it will provide financial support to municipalities that have reduced deforestation rates the most.

During the country´s Amazon Day, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva also signed the creation of two Indigenous territories that total 207,000 hectares (511,000 acres) — over two times the size of New York City — and of a network of conservation areas next to the Yanonami Indigenous Territory to act as a buffer against invaders, mostly illegal gold miners.

“The Amazon is in a hurry to survive the devastation caused by those few people who refuse to see the future, who in a few years cut down, burned, and polluted what nature took millennia to create,” Lula said during a ceremony in Brasilia. “The Amazon is in a hurry to continue doing what it has always done, to be essential for life on Earth.”

The new program will invest up to $120 million in technical assistance. The money will be allocated based on the municipality´s performance in reducing deforestation and fires, as measured by official satellite monitoring. A list of municipalities eligible for the funds will be published annually.

The resources must be invested in land titling, monitoring and control of deforestation and fires, and sustainable production.

The money will come from the Amazon Fund, which has received more than $1.2 billion, mostly from Norway, to help pay for sustainable development of the region. In February, the United States committed to a $50 million donation to the initiative. Two months later, President Joe Biden announced he would ask Congress for an additional $500 million, to be disbursed over five years.

The most critical municipalities are located along the arc of deforestation, a vast region along the southern part of the Amazon. This region is a stronghold of former far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who favored agribusiness over forest preservation and lost the reelection last year.

“We believe that it’s not enough to just put up a sign saying ‘it’s forbidden to do this or that. We need to be persuasive." Lula said, in a reference to his relationship with Amazon mayors and state governors.

Lula has promised zero net deforestation by 2030, although his term ends two years earlier. In the first seven months of his third term, there was a 42% drop in deforestation.

Brazil is the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, with almost 3% of global emissions, according to Climate Watch, an online platform managed by World Resources Institute. Almost half of these emissions come from deforestation. Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, Brazil committed to reducing carbon emissions by 37% by 2025 and 43% by 2030.

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