The World Bank Board of Directors has approved an $18.2 million USD loan to support Brazil’s Marine Protected Areas Project. The project will triple the Brazilian coastal area under environmental protection from 5.5 million to more than 17.5 million hectares.
The project will protect coastal areas' capacity to produce food, maintain good water quality and improve resilience to and recovery from degradation. It will benefit some 43 million people who live in Brazil’s 514,000 square kilometers of coastal areas.
"The coastal zone is currently one of the most environmentally threatened regions in Brazil,” Brazzil magazine quoted Brazilian Minister of Environment Izabella Teixeira as saying.
"The creation of conservation areas is fundamental to protect the ocean's biodiversity and to maintain fisheries activities that currently represent some 800,000 jobs in the country."
However, Brazil also rejected a measure to protect another of its significant ecosystems, when it refused to sign an anti-deforestation pledge during the UN Climate Change Summit in New York last week.
The Brazilian delegation to the summit said they did not receive prior consultation on the anti-deforestation declaration, but were simply handed a final copy of the document to sign.
“Unfortunately, we were not consulted,” the Associated Press quoted Teixeira as saying. The Brazilian government was “not invited to engage in the preparation process” and handed a completed document,” she added.
The Brazilian Amazon forest is often considered “the lungs of the planet,” so Brazil’s refusal to participate weakens the effectiveness of the pledge.
Deforestation is considered a major driver of climate change, because it both releases stored carbon and reduces the amount of carbon the planet is capable of storing. It can have a significant effect on freshwater resources, since moist soil quickly dries out without sun-blocking protection from trees, and because trees help return water vapor to the atmosphere. It also increases problems with erosion and pollution of waterways.
“Putting a stop to deforestation is the smart thing to do,” British Development Secretary Justine Greening at the UN summit. “Without action, the world will get hungrier, poorer and more dangerous. There is no point building a health clinic for poor people in Bangladesh if it will get washed away by the next floods.”
For its part, the UN said that there was no intention to exclude Brazil. “They are the most important country in this area,” said Charles McNeil, a policy advisor at the UN Development Program. “An effort that involves Brazil is much more powerful and impactful than one that doesn’t.”
According to The Climate Group, Brazil has already made tremendous headway on reducing deforestation, with a 79 percent cut in the last decade.
Teixeira said that although Brazil is doing its part and making a key contribution to reducing global carbon emissions, developed nations have not kept their promises to help emerging economies mitigate the cost of these actions.
The Amazon is "a really important resource, not only for Brazil but for the planet, and I'm waiting to be recognized, not only politically but also economically," Bloomberg News quoted Teixeira as saying. "It's important to put the coins on the table."