According to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) “Protecting the world’s forest is crucial for the climate. Forests absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide and can be a source of greenhouse gas emissions when destroyed or damaged.” (UNFCCC, n.d.)
Forests are also a crucial part of resilience to the unavoidable impacts of climate change, such as absorbing heat and regulating water flows. Humans depend on forests for food, energy, shelter, income, and medicine. These rainforests directly include over 1.6 billion people, of which 60 million are indigenous. Forests and trees reduce air pollution and heat exposure. Walking in forests can boost our immune systems and improve mental health. They also serve as a habitat for biodiversity and provide spiritual values important to many people and communities globally. (UNFCCC, n.d.)
Environment Next has helped fund the protection of approximately 700,000 acres of pristine rainforest in the Amazon Basin of Acre, Brazil. Regional studies in the Southwestern Amazon, where these rainforests exist, have demonstrated some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world. There are an estimated one to two million animal species in the Amazon, including howler monkeys, freshwater dolphins, and scarlet macaws: while also providing for 30,000 endemic plants.
If these rainforest properties were converted to cattle pasture, these threatened animal and plant species would virtually disappear from the project areas due to a substantial reduction in habitat.
With nearly 1/3 of all known species and the largest network of freshwater contained in the Amazon Rainforest – these rainforest conservation projects aim to protect these remaining forests and associated biodiversity by permanently preventing threats of infrastructure development projects (e.g., road construction and paving) cattle ranches, slash-and-burn agriculture, and commercial agriculture to the Project areas.
Community development is an essential component of the success of these rainforest protection projects as forest communities live amongst these properties. The Projects will generate sustainable economic opportunities for local community members, including community outreach and educational programs, new health and dental services, sustainable agriculture courses and programs, community jobs, and helping the community obtain land rights, delineating permanent family areas.
These rainforest protection projects, initially funded by Environment Next, were developed through a mechanism called REDD+. The REDD stands for (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) while the “+” stands for additional forest-related activities that protect the climate. This is mainly a result of sustainably managing forests and conserving and enhancing forest carbon stocks. (UNFCCC, n.d.)
REDD+ projects will mitigate deforestation and preserve the Project’s rich biodiversity while simultaneously generating sustainable economic and educational opportunities for this local rainforest community. There will be more information to come on the successful climate and community benefits generated by these REDD + projects in future blogs written by the Environment Next team.