To Avert a Tipping Point: Launch of the 2021 Amazon Assessment Report at COP26

Amazon Assessment Report COP26

The event was moderated by Emma Torres and featured Carlos Nobre, Andrea Encalada, Mercedes Bustamante, Marielos Peña-Claros, and Gregorio Mirabal as speakers. During the event, Carlos Nobre spoke on the tipping points in the Amazonian basin, the importance of a moratorium on deforestation and the halting of wildfires, and emphasized that the solutions contained in the report must be implemented immediately. Andrea Encalada discussed connectivity between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems across the entire Amazon Basin, along with solutions for a Living Amazon. Mercedes Bustamante discussed the multi-dimensional aspect of a Living Amazon and the importance of governance and finance for a just transformation.

Marielos Peña-Claros presented the main solutions of the report, emphasizing that there is no single solution to create a Living Amazon, but rather a need for a broad set of initiatives with the participation of Amazonian peoples, and political representation of Amazonian peoples at all levels of governance. Some of the main recommendations include:

  1. Achieve zero deforestation by 2030; annual milestones should be set now and deforestation on old-growth forests immediately halted; there should also be moratoriums for fragile areas or areas that have reached tipping points
  2. Implement measures to conserve, restore and remediate terrestrial and aquatic systems 
  3. Develop an innovative bioeconomy
  4. Strengthen Amazonian citizenship and governance

To achieve these, we need global partnerships for resources and financial investments, implementation of multilateral Amazon coordination, and the halting of illegal activities. Peña-Claros ended with other recommendations, including investing in technology, science, and innovation; global action on climate change; and better governance of supply chains.

Gregorio Mirabal addressed the crowd saying, “We entered the SPA because we wanted to position ourselves alongside science, while reaffirming that the Amazon is our house. We have lived here for thousands of years and it is a living thing with a spirit, in 9 countries. To save the Amazon, we need to work in those 9 countries without discrimination. … I have seen that the authors of this report understood this; that we need to all work together and that we need to work with the governments. We have seen in this report that it is possible to build an economy that respects the trees and the spirit of the Amazon. It calls for a transformation and a new vision for the economy. This means working with you and making sure the resources promised at COP26 really arrive in the territories. This is why we ask you to please listen and let’s take action on what this report says, and implement the recommendations. This report ia a scientific and Indigenous effort and it is a voice of the Indigenous; not only the Amazon’s Indigenous peoples but all Amazonian peoples. Respect the work that has been done in this report and I ask that governments review it and that they call on the Indigenous peoples and the Science Panel for the Amazon to actually implement solutions because we don’t have a lot of time left.”

Several of the report’s authors offered comments from the floor. Ane Alencar spoke on the importance of emphasizing diversity in a myriad of ways; in ecological systems, social systems, economies, and cultures, saying this is what the Panel brings, and that “the way the report was built, it brings the best scientific evidence of how and why diversity is important.”

Jos Barlow spoke on the importance of degradation saying that carbon emissions from degradation could be even higher or as high as emissions from deforestation. Degradation is also causing biodiversity loss and possible extinction at almost the same rate as deforestation. Some of the solutions he shared were tackling illegal timber markets, improving pasture management, working closely with traditional peoples to improve slash and burn techniques, and setting restoration targets.

The State Secretary of Environment and Sustainability of Para (Brazil), Mauro O’de Almeida, also gave his thoughts on the importance of the report from a regional perspective and called for greater collaborations between Amazonian territories.

The event ended with a Q&A session addressing questions about the solutions in detail and the future of the Science Panel for the Amazon. The findings of the report were covered by The Guardian, O Globo, and Ojo Publico, among others. 

Statement of Science Panel for the Amazon on The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use

the amazon we want - Science Panel for the Amazon

NEW YORK (November  2,  2021) – The Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA) welcomes The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use made today at COP26. The SPA as stated in its 2021 Amazon Assessment Report 2021urges decision-makers and all stakeholders to act now and recommends an immediate deforestation moratorium in areas that are already nearing tipping points, and to achieve zero deforestation and forest degradation in the entire Amazon region before 2030. Besides governments commitments, the pledges of companies and industries to eliminate deforestation and forest degradation from their supply chains are of critical relevance. The SPA welcomes the commitment to support Indigenous peoples and local communities in defense of their traditional territories and to conserve and restore natural ecosystems. The SPA also proposes that substantial financial resources are mobilized to advance sustainable pathways for the Amazon, including the implementation of a healthy standing forests and flowing rivers bioeconomy. The SPA Report will be launched on November 12th at COP 26 at 2:00pm (GMT+1) and you can register to attend virtually here

Background

The Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA) is convened under the auspices of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), and was established after the leaders of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, Ecuador, Peru, and Suriname signed the Leticia Pact for the Amazon, in September 2019. The agreement commits the governments of the seven nations to conserve the Amazon and its biodiverse treasures. It highlights the importance of research, technology, and knowledge management to guide decision-making vis-à-vis the Amazon. The hallmark of the SPA Report  is its engagement with multiple voices in the co-design and generation of knowledge. You can read more at www.theamazonwewant.org

SDSN REQUEST FOR INTERVIEWS AND INFORMATION CONTACTS:  

Isabella Leite, isabella.leite@unsdsn.org (Portuguese) 

Catherine Williams: Catherine.williams@unsdsn.org (Spanish & English)  

Amazon Assessment Report Launch November 12

Este evento se llevará a cabo en inglés y español. Para obtener información en español, haga clic aquí.

On November 12, 2021, in an official side event of the UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow, the Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA) will launch its first Amazon Assessment Report.

Attend in-person ———- Join remotely


To avert a tipping point: Launch of the Amazon assessment report

November 12, 2021 | 14:00 to 15:00 GMT | 9:00 to 10:00 EDT | More Time Zones

Speakers:


The SPA, composed of over 200 experts from across Latin America and the world, has completed work on an unprecedented, comprehensive assessment of the state of the Amazon Basin, current trends, and policy relevant considerations for the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem and its peoples. The Panel’s recommendations aim to promote conservation and advance sustainable development pathways for the region, with a vision of a healthy, standing forest and flowing rivers.

Its 34 chapters make recommendations to avert a tipping point and preserve globally-important ecosystem services. They include (i) an immediate moratorium on deforestation in areas nearing a tipping point, (ii) zero deforestation in the basin by 2030, (iii) restoration of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and (iv) promotion of a sustainable bioeconomy based on traditional knowledge, science, technology, and innovation.


Join the Launch Event in Person in Glasgow

We welcome COP26 delegates to join us in person! You do not need to register in advance to attend the event in person. This event will take place within the WWF #PandaHub pavilion, located in Hall 4 in the Blue Zone. Participants must already have UNFCCC accreditation for access.


Join the Launch Event Remotely via Zoom

Join this event from anywhere in the world with an internet connection! Please register in advance to join via Zoom. This event will also stream live on WWF’s Climate and Energy YouTube.

Statement On The Fifteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention On Biological Diversity

Science Panel for the Amazon COP15

Statement On The Fifteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention On Biological Diversity

The Amazon is home to a remarkable share of known global biodiversity, including 22% of the vascular plant species, 14% of the bird species, 9% of the mammal species, 8% of the amphibian species, and 18% of the fish species found in the Tropics. In parts of the Andes and the Amazonian lowlands, a single gram of soil may contain more than 1,000  fungi species. Endemism is high in the Amazonian lowlands, with around 34% of mammal species, 20% of bird species, and 58% of freshwater fish species found nowhere else on Earth. Scientists describe new species in the Amazon at the extraordinary rate of one every other day, as most taxonomic groups are still poorly known.

The extraordinary number of languages found in the Amazon has meaning. The more than 300 languages that exist in the Amazon today are a consequence of its outstanding biodiversity, as languages express biocultural connections which have co-evolved over time. When languages are lost, we also lose valuable ancestral knowledge accumulated over generations.

The  Amazon’s mega diverse ecosystems are critically important for mitigating climate change but remain threatened by destructive development. Approximately 17% of Amazonian forests have been converted to other land uses, and at least an additional 17%  have been degraded. Land-use changes exacerbate global climate change through feedback mechanisms that reduce forest resilience. They also increase drought stress and fire risk, cause higher tree mortality, turn the Amazon from a carbon sink to source, and could ultimately reach a tipping point beyond which continuous forests can no longer exist and are replaced by permanent, degraded ecosystems. These cascading effects would have tremendous impacts on climate and, in turn, water supply, agriculture, hydropower generation, and human health and well-being, especially in and around the Amazon.

Human-induced disturbances (e.g., wildfires, deforestation, and degradation) and climate change act synergistically, amplifying their impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem processes. Deforestation and degradation may reduce evapotranspiration by 30%  or more, increasing surface temperatures. Some regions are more likely to be affected by the synergistic effects of deforestation, degradation, and climate change than others; the eastern Amazon may lose up to 95%  of forest cover by 2050,  followed by the southwestern (81%) and southern Amazon (78%). Furthermore, deforestation, degradation and climate change interact to significantly increase fire risk and the prevalence of forest fires. Biodiversity loss is not only a problem in itself; it also has knock-on effects on critical ecosystem functions and services, such as pollination.

We must announce a  code red for the Amazon.  Saving existing forest and aquatic resources from continued deforestation and degradation and restoring ecosystems is one of the most urgent tasks of our time. We must conserve the Amazon and its people and address the global risks and impacts of climate change. Alternative and sustainable development pathways can support people and nature; these need to be integrated into regional and national policies.

The Science Panel for the Amazon, composed of over 200 scientists, calls for:

I) An immediate moratorium on deforestation in areas that are approaching tipping points, and zero deforestation and degradation across the region by 2030.  Stopping deforestation,  degradation, and wildfires in less than a decade is challenging but achievable.

II) The maintenance of at least 80% of forests standing – crucial to avoiding a potential tipping point and the loss of resilience.

III) Integrated,  transboundary basin management,  ensuring connectivity between the Amazon’s diverse ecosystems.

IV) Restoration and remediation of forests and aquatic ecosystems.  To safeguard the ecological integrity of the Amazon, it is not only necessary to cease loss and degradation of natural resources and consolidate protected areas,  but also to restore and remediate terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

V) Advance a transformative, sustainable development path in the Amazon by promoting a new bioeconomy that values healthy,  standing forests and flowing rivers; preserves nature and the traditional activities of forest peoples; and increases prosperity by building a diversified economy. This requires halting illegal activities and environmental crime, strengthening the value chains of biodiversity products by merging scientific and traditional knowledge,  and reducing information asymmetry.  These actions ensure sustainability,  transparency,  and accountability throughout supply chains,  stimulating entrepreneurship and investment.  Investing in education,  science, technology, and innovation is paramount.

VI) Decision-making at the local, national, regional, and global level is informed by scientific evidence and reliable data, as highlighted by the Leticia Pact for the Amazon.

VII) Secure the land rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities  (IPLCs) and increase their participation in decision making. IPLCs play a critical role in the sustainable use and conservation of Amazonian biodiversity, holding long-term, experiential knowledge of agricultural, aquatic, and agroforestry systems. Guaranteeing the territorial rights and self-determination of  Indigenous peoples and local communities is among the most important strategies for protecting biodiversity and biocultural landscapes in the Amazon.

The Amazon is a vital ecosystem for the entire planet and a part of humanity’s irreplaceable heritage. Its stewardship rests first and foremost with the nations of the Amazon, but this responsibility must be shared globally. Sustainable development pathways must be shaped and implemented by Amazonian countries and supported by nations everywhere. Financial support should be mobilized from advanced economies, as they have a deep responsibility both as buyers of products from areas with deforestation and for their accumulated greenhouse gas emissions.

SPA/ UN SDSN Contacts:
Catherine Williams: Catherine.williams@unsdsn.org
Kamsha R. Maharaj: Kamsha.maharaj@unsdsn.org
For Portuguese-speaking, please contact:
Isabella Leite, isabella.leite@unsdsn.org


Science Panel for the Amazon: Presentation of Initial Findings

Initial Findings | Science Panel for the Amazon

A Side Event at the High-Level Political Forum

The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest and river system, vital to the planet’s climate stability and home to an irreplaceable wealth of biodiversity, much of which is still unknown. It provides critical ecosystem services to the eight sovereign countries and one overseas territory that encompass it, and also to the globe. The Amazon is home to 35 million people, including more than one million Indigenous peoples, with their own cultural identities, territorial management practices, and more than 300 different languages.

Deforestation and forest degradation have risen in recent decades, especially driven by the expansion of inefficient cattle ranching, low-productivity agriculture, mining, and infrastructure development. Close to 70% of protected areas and Indigenous territories are currently threatened by roads, mining, oil and gas development, illegal invasions, dams, and deforestation.

The rise in deforestation and fires in 2019 and 2020 marks a dramatic acceleration in the rate of deforestation. Deforestation, which affects nearly 17% of the total rainforest, threatens the survival of the entire ecosystem by endangering biodiversity, changing the water cycle, and provoking a negative feedback loop whereby degradation reduces the resilience of remaining forest. Many scientists warn the Amazon as a whole may be approaching a tipping point of irreversible collapse.

In response to these challenges and inspired by the Leticia Pact for the Amazon, a group of over 200 preeminent scientists from the region have untied to form the unprecedented Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA). The Panel is convened by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), and will issue a comprehensive, first-of-its-kind scientific assessment of the state of the Amazon, current trends, and recommendations for the long-term well-being of the ecosystem and its people. If implemented, the Panel’s recommendations will promote conservation as well as sustainable development of the region, with a vision of a standing forest, flowing rivers bioeconomy based on local and Indigenous knowledge, technology, and innovation.

This July the SPA will release their initial findings as well as a draft version of their full report for public consultation. The SDSN and the World Bank will co-host a high-level dialogue to present these initial findings and foster conversations between scientists and policymakers to advance sustainable development pathways in the Amazon.

The event will be discussion-focused, and feature interactions between the experts and policymakers. Registration is open online.

Agenda

Moderated by Ilona Szabó, Instituto Igarapé

12:15 NYC Virtual Meeting Room Opens

12:30 NYC Opening Remarks

12:40 NYC Presentations from the Panel

13:05 NYC Responses from Stakeholders

13:30 NYC Discussion; Statements will be kept 
strictly to 2 minutes to maximize the 
number of speakers.

13:55 NYC Closing Remarks

14:00 NYC Adjourn

SPA Co-Chair Receives 2021 AAAS Award

Carlos Nobre | Science Panel for the Amazon

Carlos Nobre’s recent endeavor as Co-Chair of the Science Panel for the Amazon, in which he oversees around 200 scientists, helped him be conferred the prestigious award

NEW YORK (AND ZOOM) — (08 February, 2021) The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has announced today that Carlos Nobre, one of the top climate scientists in Brazil, and Co-Chair of the Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA), has won the 2021 AAAS Award for Science Diplomacy. The official online ceremony will be held on 10 February, 2021.

The AAAS Award

The AAAS Award for Science Diplomacy is delivered to individuals or groups making an outstanding contribution to furthering science diplomacy. The Award is presented each year at the AAAS Annual Meeting.

During this year’s meeting, Nobre moderated the session “Amazon Development Pathways: Fostering Conservation and Prosperity”, which had the participation of SPA’s authors Ricardo Abramovay, Jos Barlow, Joice Ferreira, Paulo Moutinho, Plinio Sist and Mariana Varese.

During the event, the scientists discussed ways in which restoration and deforestation reduction can be used to protect biodiversity, sustain local livelihoods, and maintain high carbon stocks and ecosystems processes throughout the 21st Century. By exploring experiences and best practices developed by local people, entrepreneurs, decision-makers, activists, scientists, and other key actors actively working across the Amazon, panelists also emphasized successful examples of how cooperative learning and knowledge sharing among indigenous peoples, traditional communities, and scientists is improving management of common lands and natural resources, while protecting rights at multiple spatial scales.

According to Nobre, “The Amazon is under serious risk of disappearing. Deforestation rates have been increasing – they exceed 20,000 km2 in 2020, with more than 50% of that figure pertaining to the Brazilian Amazon. Also, forest degradation had a record-breaking number of forest fires. We really have to find a new alternative path for development in the Amazon. This is a challenge for all of us – particularly the Amazonian countries; it has to be led by Amazonian countries – but it is a global engagement overall. The Science Panel for the Amazon is directly dealing with those issues. How to identify a sustainable future? How to identify sustainable pathways for the Amazon? In this sense, science diplomacy is critical, because we have to communicate science broadly to all audiences, to policymakers, private sector, society at large, to the Amazonian people, in order to preserve the rights of the traditional populations of the Amazon. So, the SPA’s goal is to gather top-notch scientific knowledge and disseminating it broadly, globally, and particularly among the Amazonian countries to disruptively find a different type of development.”

Who is Carlos Nobre?

Nobel Laureate Carlos Nobre is one of Brazil’s best-known climate scientists. Nobre was National Secretary for Research and Development Policies at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of Brazil; President of Brazil’s Agency for Post-Graduate Education (CAPES); and Chair of the Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA). He is a foreign member of the US National Academy of Sciences and a member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and the World Academy of Sciences. He is a founding member of the World Resources Institute (WRI).

Nobre was an author of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Climate Panel, which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He also won the Volvo Environment Prize for his work on the Amazon in 2016.

Carlos Nobre is passionate about the Amazon since his first visit to the biome, in the 1970s. Since then, Nobre has dedicated most of his career to studying and protecting the Amazon. Currently, he is one of the founders of Amazonia 4.0, also known as Amazon Third Way Initiative, which proposes the development of an equitable and socially inclusive “green economy” that is biodiversity-oriented in the Amazon, harnessing the value of nature through sustainable products from tropical forests standing and with flowing rivers.

His recent work on the Science Panel for the Amazon, in which he oversees the work of about 200 scientists and authors, has inspired the AAAS to award him with the 2021 AAAS Science Diplomacy Award.

The Science Panel for the Amazon

The Amazon is near a tipping point and it is now more urgent than ever to find alternative pathways towards sustainable development in the region. As a response to this threat, and inspired by the Leticia Pact for the Amazon, which highlights the importance of research, technology, and knowledge management to guide decision-making, a group of respected scientists established the Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA) on 23 September, 2019, at the United Nations in New York on the eve of the UN Secretary General Climate Summit. 

The Panel was officially launched on July 23, 2020, and is currently formed by approximately 200 scientists, two-thirds from the Amazon region, to debate, analyze, and assemble the accumulated and collaborative knowledge of the scientific community, indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), and other stakeholders that live and work in Amazonian countries.

SPA is convened under the auspices of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). Carlos Nobre, together with Andrea Encalada, are the Co-Chairs of this unprecedent initiative, which was brought together by the world-renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs and has the strategic advisory of a recognized group of leaders in its Strategic Committee, including Juan Manuel Santos, the former President of Colombia, cultural icons like famed photographer Sebastiäo Salgado, and José Gregorio Díaz Mirabal, elected leader of the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon.

The SPA is developing a first-of- its-kind Report, providing a rigorous scientific assessment of the state of the Amazon ecosystems, trends, and implications for long-term well-being of the region, while also exploring opportunities and policy relevant options for conservation and sustainable development of the Amazon. The SPA’s Report will be launched in the second half of 2021.

Flying rivers

In this video, the production and transport of humidity at hourly time steps in the Amazon basin is presented from Decemeber 1st, 2004 to January 1st, 2005. The video shows the effects of land surface and forest evapotranspiration and the transport of water vapor in South America using the WRF model and water vapor tracers over the Amazon. Humidity values range from low (purple) to medium (green) and to high (0.015) values (white). While most of the moisture comes from the Atlantic Ocean, evapotranspiration from the rainforest and its recycling into new precipitation, and the cascading of moisture downwinds are key to sustain rainfall in the Amazon, but also along the Andes cordillera and the La Plata River basin. The “heart-beat effect” seen in the clip is due to the diurnal cycle of evapotranspiration over the Amazon rainforest. Thus, strong land surface-vegetation-atmosphere interactions are key to maintaining humidity output in the Amazon and its transport to other parts of South America. The video highlights the fundamental role of the Amazon rainforest to sustain rainfall at continental scale, and suggests the deleterious impacts of deforestation over the region’s hydroclimate.

Details at: Yang, Z., and F. Dominguez, 2019: Investigating Land Surface Effects on the Moisture Transport over South America with a Moisture Tagging Model. J. Climate32, 6627–6644, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0700.1.

Featured Photograph by Esteban Suárez

Letter to Nemonte Nenquimo

Science Panel for the Amazon

Dear Nemonte,

Your letter has profoundly moved us.  

We fully support your call to end, today, the destructive and unsustainable development of the Amazon that is devastating the largest rainforest in the world, home to 35 million people, among them, more than one million Amazonian Indigenous Peoples, who like you, have sustainably managed the standing forest and associated ecosystems for over 12,000 years.

You are not alone in this urgent call. We, the Science Panel for the Amazon, a group of 180 scientists and researchers, from the eight Amazonian countries, French Guiana, and global partners, join your  request to the leaders of the Amazonian countries, heads of State, and citizens of the world to commit to conserving the Amazon from the compounding effects of extractive industries, ever-expanding agriculture, illegal mining, deforestation, forest and riverine degradation, fires, and climate change, now further exacerbated by COVID-19.

In a statement addressed to the Heads of States, UN Agencies, and citizens of the world, on occasion of the UN Biodiversity summit held on September 30, 2020, we called for the ecological restoration, fair use of degraded areas, and sustainable management of resources for a transition to a vibrant rights-based, standing forest, flowing and healthy rivers bioeconomy, and emphasized that special attention should be given to youth and children’s needs.

We also strongly recommended a post-COVID-19 economic recovery for the Amazon with an emphasis on green jobs driven by investment in sustainable low-carbon green infrastructure, including health, education, and access to clean water, sanitation and broadband, and based on the recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, who are the stewards of the Amazon.

We recognize and appreciate the value of traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and the great diversity of local and regional knowledge, and aspire to integrate it with the Panel’s scientific research on conservation and restoration, to co-generate sustainable solutions and recommendations, which respect and accept the different worldviews to advance sustainable development pathways for the Amazon. We are especially honored to count with several scientists from Indigenous Communities among our members.

We are undertaking a full-fledged scientific assessment of the State of the Amazon – the first of its kind – and will propose practical and policy relevant solutions, recommendations, and pathways for the conservation and sustainable development of the Amazon. Our Panel will engage with policy makers locally, regionally and globally, and with the diverse set of stakeholders of the region to mobilize support for the conservation and the implementation of sustainable development pathways in the Amazon.

We agree with you: urgent local, national, and global action are needed, and, like you, we appeal to governments, businesses, financial institutions, civil society, academia, scientists, the media, faith-based communities, and people of good will everywhere to join us in a common effort to respect the Amazon and its people, and invest in its long-term sustainable development.

You are not alone.

Science Panel for the Amazon

SPA releases its Statement on the occasion of the UN Biodiversity Summit

UN Biodiversity Summit - Science Panel for the Amazon

The Science Panel for the Amazon has released a statement on the occasion of the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity convened on September 30, 2020 by the UN General Assembly “in order to highlight the urgency of action at the highest levels in support of a post-2020 global biodiversity framework that contributes to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and places the global community on a path towards realizing the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity”

The statement emphasizes the urgent action needed to conserve the Amazon and, on the need, to invest and harness science, technology and innovation for sustainable development pathways in the region.

It also addresses the impact of COVID-19 in the Amazon and advocates for an Amazon Sustainable, Inclusive, Job Economic Recovery that respects Indigenous Peoples rights

Urgent Action for the Amazon We Want

Preamble

We, scientists of the Science Panel for the Amazon, appeal to the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity and to Heads of State, and citizens of the world to commit to saving the Amazon from the compounding effects and exacerbating threats of extractive industries, destructive deforestation, forest and riverine degradation, fires, and climate change.

We met on September 2019 at the United Nations, on the eve of the Climate Action Summit convened by the UN Secretary-General and issued a Scientific Framework to Save the Amazon. We emphasized that the Amazon is a place of immense natural and cultural wealth, values and diversity. It is the greatest repository of biodiversity in the world, holding more than 10% of all species of plants and animals on Earth. It is also home to 35 million people and cultural diversity, including more than one million Indigenous Peoples, with their own identities, territorial effective management practices, and at least 330 different languages.

We emphasized the significant and multiple environmental services that the Amazon provides to the sovereign Amazonian countries and to the world, including the critical role it plays in the global water, energy, and carbon cycles. The basin holds 20% of the planet’s non- frozen fresh water, the forest efficiently recycles water to the atmosphere, and the winds transport this moisture via rainfall to countries outside the basin.

The Amazon is also a critical buffer against climate change, absorbing between 13% and 20% of the 2.4 billion metric tons of carbon captured annually by the world’s forests. The forests store more than 100 billion metric tons of carbon, roughly a decade’s worth of global energy-related emissions. The Amazon rainforest and associated ecosystems are vital for the entire planet, and an irreplaceable heritage for all of humanity.

We warned that the Amazon is nearing a tipping point due to devastating trends that threaten the survival of both the forest and aquatic ecosystems which sustain it, and its inhabitants, especially Indigenous Peoples and local communities, whose rights must be respected if their knowledge and their role in conservation is to be sustained. Such threats are the result of the expansion of inefficient cattle ranching, low-productivity agriculture, the widespread use of toxic chemicals including mercury pollution, large infrastructure such as hydroelectric dams, illegal logging and mining, which cause deforestation and degradation of forest and aquatic ecosystems. Close to 70% of protected areas and Indigenous territories are threatened by roads, mining, oil and gas development, illegal invasions, hydroelectric dams, and deforestation.

Today, COVID-19 is exacerbating this situation. Illegal deforestation, mining, and other clandestine activities have increased since the beginning of the pandemic. This has unveiled long-standing structural and economic inequities, including access to basic services like clean water, sanitation, healthcare, education, transportation, electricity, and broadband. COVID-19 is also having a devastating impact on Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon. As of September 23, 2020, an estimated 238 indigenous communities of the Amazon basin have been affected by COVID-19, with over 61,782 people confirmed to be infected and 1,878 deaths, many of them elderly, numbers that, in all likelihood, significantly underestimate the true spread of the virus and its devastation of dozens of cultures through high mortality among Indigenous elders in the region who hold vast traditional knowledge. The plight of Amazonian urban dwellers is no less dire. Iquitos, Leticia and Manaus have extremely high rates of infection.

Bioeconomy[1] is one of the most important frontiers of scientific and technological innovation. The Amazon, with the world’s greatest biodiversity, has no doubt a significant bioeconomic potential by harnessing its biological and biomimetic assets, including those assets codified in the genomes of biodiversity.

Given that the Amazon is close to reach an irreversible tipping point of no return, the COVID-19 economic recovery plans cannot be based on expanded resource extraction. Rather, they should support the transition towards a more sustainable, and socially inclusive development of the Amazon, in both urban and rural settings. The resource-intensive export-oriented industrial development model adopted by most Amazonian countries for the past 50 years led to a massive destruction of the forest and to high inequity and poverty. It is essential to pursue a transition to an alternative economic model that no longer relies on deforestation and destructive extraction of commodities and raw materials, but, instead, could start with adding technological value to a sustainable production chain. Global cooperation should support local sustainable recovery plans from COVID-19.

We strongly recommend an economic recovery for the Amazon region with emphasis on green jobs and driven by investment in scaling up- recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, in sustainable low-carbon green infrastructure, including health, education, and broadband. Special attention should be given to youth and children needs. We also call for the ecological restoration and fair use of degraded areas, and sustainable management of resources for a transition to a vibrant rights-based bioeconomy. 

We acknowledge that the majority of Amazonian people are urban, and this trend towards urbanization is continuing. Development pathways in the Amazon so far have largely ignored the importance of achieving sustainable cities in the Amazon. That must change. Cities can grow even as their regional footprints stabilize.

We believe that an integrated cross-sectoral approach to land use, water, forests, fisheries, and infrastructure that secures and increases land under conservation, restores degraded lands, respects Indigenous Peoples, and invests in sustainable development pathways can save the Amazon.

We recognize the traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples, who have sustainably managed the standing forest and associated ecosystems for over 12,000 years. Close to 45% of the best conserved areas are Indigenous lands. And there is a growing appreciation of their knowledge as especially relevant for advancing a sustainable economy, as well as restoration of degraded areas.

The advanced economies have a deep responsibility to provide financing and support due to their role as primary consumers of products such as soybeans and meat that contribute to deforestation, and their historical cumulative greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions.

Movements across political, corporate, academic, and civil society spheres are surging to stop deforestation and to mobilize action for the sustainable development of the Amazon.

Given the urgency of COVID-19 crisis, and the continued forest destruction and fires, we urge the Biodiversity Summit to help the sovereign nations of the Amazon basin protect, what is also a heritage of global humanity. We insist especially on the protection and recognition of the Indigenous Peoples’ rights, who are the rightful first stewards of the Amazon. We must mobilize urgent medical care, telemedicine, protective equipment, fire prevention programs, and enhanced enforcement against illegal mining and logging and forest clearing.

Urgent local, national, and global action is needed, and we appeal to governments, businesses, financial institutions, civil society, academia, scientists, the media, faith-based communities and people of good will everywhere to join in a common effort to save the Amazon and invest in its long-term sustainable development.


[1] The European Commission defines the bioeconomy as “the production of renewable biological resources and the conversion of these resources and waste streams into value added products, such as food, feed, bio-based products and bioenergy. Its sectors and industries have strong innovation potential due to their use of a wide range of sciences, enabling and industrial technologies, along with local and tacit knowledge.” Source: “Innovating for Sustainable Growth – A Bioeconomy for Europe” (2012). In the ecological context of Amazonia, the understanding of Bioeconomy is strictly limited to the sustainable use of standing-forest and water-based biological resources (including free-flowing rivers) to ensure forest and ecosystem conservation.

You can download the full statement here.

Solutions to Scale Green Sustainable Development in the Amazon – September 3

Sustainable Development in the Amazon - Science Panel for the Amazon

On September 3, 2020, (10am ET / 4pm CEST) the SPA held a webinar to present the SPA’s vision for sustainable pathways for the Amazon we want. During the webinar, panelists presented innovative examples and recommendations for a standing-forest bio economy, informed by scientific knowledge as well as by the social and cultural practices of Indigenous Peoples and traditional communities, and considering the diversity of possible products from terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

The webinar had the objective to:

· Discuss sustainable development pathways for the Amazon;

· Highlight synergies between different types of knowledge and an interdisciplinary approach to develop practical and integrated solutions;

· Engage potential partners that share the vision of a protected and productive Amazon.

You can view the webinar here: