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COP26: Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state wants to increase Atlantic rainforest to 40% of its territory

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Thiago Pampolha, State Secretary for Environment and Sustainability, presented Rio de Janeiro’s plan to protect and restore the state’s biodiversity at COP26 in Glasgow on Monday.

The plans were unveiled in an event organized by Regions4, which represents and helps local governments mitigate climate variability and protect the natural environment. The measures involve a massive reforestation project that plans to increase Rio’s Atlantic Rainforest cover from 30% to 40% by 2050.

These deforested hills are to become Mata Atlantica again.
These deforested hills are to become Mata Atlantica again. (Photo internet reproduction)

This program will involve the reforestation of 440,000 hectares (4,400 km2), around 10% of the state’s total area, and an increase of 33% on previous forest cover levels. This will require more than 2 million native tree seedlings to be planted over the next three decades. Planting will take place in conservation areas and other key locations across the state.

If completed, this ambitious plan has the potential of sequestering 159 million tonnes of CO2. This will go a significant way towards helping the state meet its carbon targets. In addition to this, it will be a massive boost for efforts to preserve the health and biodiversity of Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest.

Due to hundreds of years of settlement and agriculture in the coastal regions of Brazil, where the Atlantic Rainforest thrives, this ecosystem is one of the most degraded and fragmented in the country.

Approximately half its plant and animal species are endemic, found nowhere else in the world. Many of these are threatened with extinction, so this habitat must not be allowed to degrade further. Increasing the size of the forest gives a real chance to foster healthier populations of key species.

An idea of the Atlantic Forest’s incredible biodiversity can be obtained by considering that there are about 20,000 different plant species in this ecosystem, with up to 450 tree species found in a single hectare in some areas.

And this is how the hills should look again.
This is how the hills should look again. (Photo internet reproduction)

Assuming these plans are implemented fully and not just a superficial sign of good intentions, care should be taken (insofar as is possible) to select areas for reforestation that will have a maximal effect on the ecosystem’s health.

With a few exceptions, reforestation in a historically deforested region is always good. Still, suppose an effort is made to create more significant forest areas, augment forests containing endangered species, and link separate forest patches together through wildlife corridors. In that case, the same amount of planting can have a far more significant positive effect on this unique and vital tropical habitat.

As well as reforestation, Rio de Janeiro undertook commitments to create a state plan for adaption to climate change; to revise state plans as necessary to adhere to the Paris Accords goal of keeping temperature change below 1.5°C; to protect 30% of land and water by 2030, and to restore and protect other ecosystems in the state.

The ICMS Ecological tax system will pass on funds to municipalities that protect the environment concerning conservation and reforestation projects, improved sewage systems, and protection of water sources.

Next year, Rio de Janeiro will also host Rio+30, an event that will discuss the role of urban centers in combating climate change. It takes place 30 years after the Earth Summit (Eco92), a groundbreaking UN conference on environmental protection held in the city in 1992.

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