Amazon Summit 2023:

From tipping point to turning point?

This week, leaders of the nine Amazon countries have the opportunity to agree on effective plans to stop the collapse of the world’s largest rainforest.

GRAVE DANGER: The Amazon rainforest is in grave danger of collapse. Photo: Shutterstock

By Kristin Rødland Buick.

Leaders from the nine countries that share the Amazon basin, as well as civil society and indigenous peoples’ representatives, meet this week in the Brazilian city of Belem. The high-level meeting from 7-9 August follows a people’s assembly starting this Friday.

“We expect the leaders of the Amazon countries to agree upon a pan-Amazon action plan that will move the world’s largest rainforest from tipping point to turning point; by effectively stopping deforestation and protecting indigenous and other forest people,” says Anders Haug Larsen, head of international advocacy at Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN).

The world’s largest rainforest is in grave danger of collapse. Of the original Amazon forest cover, 18 % is lost and another 23% is degraded. Recent studies show that the resilience of the Amazon rainforest is now drastically reduced, increasing its vulnerability to extreme weather and ultimately threatening core ecosystem functions such as water production and carbon sequestration.

PRESIDENT: Brazilian president Lula da Silva with Brazil's Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Marina Silva. Photo: Shutterstock

However, Brazil and Colombia saw significant reductions in deforestation this year. Recent figures from the Brazilian Amazon show more than a 60% reduction in deforestation this July and a 42 % reduction in deforestation between January and July, compared to the same periods last year. With this recent reduction in deforestation, the emission cuts in 2023, equate to 100 million tons of CO2 compared to last year.

“The incredible reduction in deforestation comes as a result of Lula’s promises to tackle deforestation. The zero deforestation goal, operations to kick out illegal gold miners and the recruitment of several hundred environmental officers have made illegal activities less attractive. Import regulations from Europe have also incentivized companies to clean up their supply chains,” says Haug Larsen and continues:

“Now it’s important to deliver on these promises and expectations, both from the Amazon countries and the international community. This is why the upcoming Amazon Summit is so crucial.”

Expectations are high ahead of the summit, with the presidents Gustavo Petro and Lula da Silva agreeing to collaborate on stopping deforestation in bilateral meetings earlier in July. However, commitments towards a pan-Amazon action plan are not yet clear, as conflict levels rise in Peru.

Calls for stronger pan-Amazon collaboration

“Many of the problems in the Amazon transcend borders, and there is an urgent need for collaboration and commitments across the Amazon countries on stopping deforestation. History has shown that a large and quick reduction in deforestation is possible with deforestation being reduced by 2/3 during Lula’s last presidency. National deforestation plans, combatting forest crime, securing the rights of forest peoples and international support from public and private actors made this possible and needs to be replicated,” says Anders Haug Larsen.

In addition to transnational collaboration on law enforcement of forest crime, Rainforest Foundation Norway is also encouraging the countries to ensure the protection of and a sustainable livelihood for the people living in the forest.

“There is a need for forest economy solutions at scale to counter the trend of agricultural commodities as the dominant economic model for the pan Amazon,” says Anders Haug Larsen. Rainforest Foundation Norway supports several forest economy projects in the region, strengthening forest people’s livelihood.

Rainforest Foundation Norway is also calling for increased protection of Indigenous people, in particular those in voluntary isolation and environmental human rights defenders. At least 66 indigenous groups of people live in isolation in the Amazon basin. Many live in two “territorial corridors” stretching across Brazil and Peru, in an area larger than Great Britain.

“They are under constant and increasing threats. It is paramount for their survival that their territory gets formally protected and illegal activity in the area is clamped down, says Anders Haug Larsen.

Rainforest Foundation Norway is also supporting its partners' calls for increased involvement of civil society in general, and in particular during the event.

Arial view of burning rainforest. Photo.

WILDFIRE: Wildfire in the Brazilian Amazon in 2022. The 2023 Amazon Summit is set against an alarming backdrop of global extreme weather: floods, heat records and wildfires. Photo: Edmar Barros/RFN

Global responsibility

The 2023 Amazon Summit is set against an alarming backdrop of global extreme weather: floods, heat records and wildfires. “Protecting the Amazon rainforest is the most immediate and effective tool we have to reduce global warming, and the responsibility to protect it goes far beyond the Amazon leaders. We call on all world leaders to accelerate this momentum by stepping-up financial support for rights-based forest conservation in line with international commitments. Companies must once and for all cut deforestation risk from their production and supply chains,” says Anders Haug Larsen, Head of international advocacy at Rainforest Foundation Norway.

Rainforest Foundation Norway is present at the summit, together with partners from Brazil, Colombia and Peru.

Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) is a rights-based NGO working to protect the world’s remaining rainforests and the people living there. RFN originated in the Amazon and has over 30 years of experience working with Indigenous peoples and other civil society organisations in three of the largest Amazon countries.

The Amazon Summit 2023 The Brazilian government has invited the leaders of the eight other countries of the Amazon basin1 for the 4th Meeting of the Presidents of States Parties to the Amazon Cooperation Treaty. The summit will take place in Belém, Brazil, on August 7-9. The meeting is organised by the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO).

Kristin Rødland Buick

Senior Adviser International Media, Communications
+(47) 456 56 277