Indigenous lands in the Amazon are the "best climate solution," says a study

Indigenous communities and protected areas of the Amazon rainforest are "the best solution" to climate change, so governments should strengthen their environmental legislation and fight "impunity" for crimes in the region, a published study said this Monday.

In the study, published in the journal of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, the researchers point out that indigenous communities in the Amazon "buffer" carbon emissions and play a "crucial role" in preserving biodiversity.

"To save the Amazon, indigenous territories must remain protected," said one of the researchers, Steve Schwartzman, who added that the investigation found that indigenous reserves "have reduced deforestation and degradation" of the Amazon over the past 20 years.

In the study, the authors analyzed the losses and gains in carbon in the period between 2003 and 2016 and divided the losses between those attributed to the conversion of the tropical forest - such as deforestation -, degradation by human impact and natural factors.

The results indicate that, during that period, the Amazon rainforest released about 1.290 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere, of which the indigenous territories recorded the lowest net loss of the substance.

The scientist Wayne Walker, who also participated in the study, said the work found that "forests under the administration of indigenous peoples and local communities" still have "better carbon results than lands that lack protection."


But the researchers warned that environmental legislation has been softened in recent years and that governments "are weakening environmental protections", "violating indigenous rights" and "encouraging impunity" in the face of environmental crimes perpetrated in the region .

"The situation is putting at risk the existence of our peoples and our territories, which contain the densest carbon forests in the world," said Tuntiak Katan, another author of the study and deputy coordinator of the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Basin of the Amazon (COICA).

Although the investigation was conducted before the election of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who came to power on January 1, 2019, the researchers warned that the situation will be "increasingly urgent."

In the study, the authors stressed that Bolsonaro, a captain of the Army reserve, "further reduced environmental protections" and inspections and stressed that the revision of regulations governing the Amazon Fund, financed by Norway and Germany, led to an "effective stoppage" of these funds, destined to the preservation of the largest tropical forest in the world.

"Government-oriented policies have triggered a new wave of land grabbing and speculation," contributing to "recent peaks of deforestation and widespread fires," said the study leaders.

Bolsonaro has been criticized on several occasions for defending greater flexibility in environmental legislation, as well as mineral and agricultural exploitation in indigenous lands.

Thus, the researchers concluded that "it remains an open question" if the current policies of the Brazilian president, "which have the potential to erase decades of progress," could be influenced by "political pressures to the contrary."

The research involved scientists and experts from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), from the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), from the Amazon Network of Social and Environmental Information (RAISG), from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) ) and the Amazon Institute for Environmental Research (IPAM).


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