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A race against time

New report from Indigenous leaders and researchers reveals how to protect 80% of the Amazon by 2025
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Aerial shot of the Amazon in Brazil

Amazonian Indigenous leaders and researchers from nine countries have presented new evidence showing that the Amazon is immersed in a crisis or heading towards a point of no return due to the high rates of deforestation and degradation that, combined, already account for 26% of the region.

However, the remaining 74% (629 million hectares in priority areas) is still standing and requires immediate protection. The report states that the point of no return should be understood as the beginning of metastasis or the irreversible destruction of the ecosystem.

This new analysis reveals where degradation and transformation are occurring at the country level, and also identifies immediate needs and solutions to address the crisis in the Amazon.

It was presented at the 5th Summit of Amazon Indigenous Peoples, organised by the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA), one year after the approval of Motion 129 of the Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which seeks to avoid the point of no return in the Amazon by protecting 80% of the Amazon by 2025.

There is still time

The report, presented by COICA in conjunction with coalition of the Amazonia for Life Initiative, states that the protection of 80% of the Amazon by 2025 is still feasible and that there is still time to stop the current rate of destruction.

The study contemplates solutions to stop the progression towards the point of no return, including the recognition of 100 million hectares of Indigenous Territories, moratoriums to safeguard intact ecosystems with low degradation, an inclusive model of co-governance and a proposal for the conditional cancellation of the debts of the Amazonian countries.

The authors sounded a strong warning to the international community about the imminent danger faced by hundreds of Indigenous peoples living in the 40% of intact ecosystems (255 million hectares) that do not have territorial management regimes that reflect the biocultural diversity of the basin.

‘This report compellingly addresses the current state of the Amazon and outlines the symbiosis between threats to ecosystems and indigenous peoples in nine countries. There is a direct correlation between the destruction of our habitat and the assassination of indigenous leaders, defenders of our territories. We have corroborated that the recognition of the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin is an urgent solution to safeguard 80% of the Amazon. We must act together, and we must do it before 2025. Anything less would be too little too late. We have entered the danger zone.’

Indigenous leader and general coordinator of COICA

Pressures on the Amazon

This report, prepared by RAISG2, is accompanied by a set of new maps based on 36 years of data sequences, which show that 86% of deforestation has taken place in areas that do not have a territorial management regime aimed at conservation.

The livestock industry is the major driver of deforestation in the Amazon. Deforestation caused by cattle ranching in the Amazon rainforest accounts for almost 2% of global CO2 emissions annually.

66% of the Amazon is subject to some type of constant or permanent pressure: the oil industry, mining and over 800 planned and operating hydroelectric plants, among others.

‘Preserving 80% of the Amazon by 2025 depends, on the one hand, on the knowledge systems of the Indigenous peoples who inhabit the territories and, on the other, on a transformative global financial strategy. The countries of the Amazon rely on the international community to assume its co-responsibility. The drivers of the destruction of the Amazon are principally the supply chains of the industrialised countries. Without knowing it, we eat, transport and dress ourselves with products that destroy the Amazon. We cannot afford to lose another hectare. The future of the Amazon is everyone’s responsibility.’

Co-coordinator of the Stand.Earth Initiative

Legalising ‘what is illegal’

The study examines the issue at the national level in the nine countries of the basin and shows that 34% of the Brazilian Amazon has entered a process of transformation, as has 24% of the Bolivian Amazon, 16% in Ecuador, 14% in Colombia and 10% in Peru, which are the countries with the highest rates.

Savannization is already a reality in the southeast of the region, mainly in Brazil and Bolivia. The data show that both countries are responsible for 90% of the deforestation and degradation in the entire region and that they share encroachment as a central cause of deforestation. This issue places states and their legal frameworks at the centre of the solutions.

‘In Brazil we are witnessing a government with a blatantly anti-Indigenous state policy that seeks, in every possible way, to legalise what is illegal. The rampant destruction and greed aimed at our ancestral territories, our Amazon, in the north of the country, is the visible face of the historical violation of rights to which we, the indigenous peoples of Brazil, have been subjected for decades.’

Former coordinator of COIAB, Brazil

66% of the Amazon is subject to some type of constant or permanent pressure. Oil blocks, hydroelectric power plants, and mines are planned throughout the Amazon.

Current legal frameworks create conditions for states to grant licenses in intact forests or Indigenous lands without the freely given prior and informed consent of the people living in the region.

‘Unlike protected areas, indigenous territories do not have Amazonian government budgets or funding mechanisms from the international community, yet they have comparable or even higher levels of conservation than protected areas. Indigenous peoples present an unparalleled opportunity to protect vulnerable wildlife species, as established by United Nations bodies (IPBES, IPCC).’

Director of Ecociencia, Ecuador-RAISG

The restrictions of national budgets combined with a debt that averages 78% of Latin America’s regional GDP lead governments to overexploit the Amazon’s natural resources. Total debt service alone represents 59% of their exports of goods and services.

‘The foreign debt of Amazonian countries must be understood as a systemic driver and fuel for extractive activities throughout the region’, explained Tuntiak Katán, vice-coordinator of COICA.

‘As a coalition, we propose the cancellation of this debt as an immediate protective measure to alleviate the economic challenges facing our countries. This cancellation would be conditioned to the protection of 80% of the Amazon. Industrialised countries and international financial institutions would assume responsibility for safeguarding the planet, mitigating climate change, and alleviating pressure on the Amazon with the leadership of the Amazonian countries.’

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