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Forest and Land Use Policies on Private Lands: an International Comparison

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Published: October, 2017

Under the Paris Climate Agreement, Brazil has committed to taking concrete steps to restore land and protect its forests. The new Brazilian Forest Code (Law No. 12.651/2012) governs the use and protection of public and private lands in Brazil and is one of the most significant pieces of legislation with the potential to drive efficient land use in the country and become an effective tool against climate change.

Other important agricultural producing countries are also striving to develop their rural economy while protecting their natural resources.

This new sudy by Climate Policy Initiative/PUC-Rio researchers with INPUT compares forest protection and land use legislation of some of the world’s top ten exporters of agricultural products, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany and the United States, in order to understand:

  • What does compliance with the Brazilian Forest Code mean compared to what other countries are required to do by law?
  • What, aside from regulation, are the other tools available to achieve conservation of vegetation?

This exploratory legal analysis focuses on answering the first question by investigating whether other countries have limitations on the use of private rural properties similar those imposed by the Brazilian Forest Code. It does this by establishing a comparative legal framework that analyzes:

  1. riparian buffer zones and other ecological buffers policies; and
  1. biodiversity conservation policies.

The results of this comparison are expected to benefit countries with relevant climate and environmental commitments, providing transparency about each country’s contributions to the development of a low-carbon development pathway. In addition, instruments used by other countries provide lessons learned and shed light on tools that could be applied to improve forest conservation and compliance with the Forest Code in Brazil.

What emerges from this analysis is that although the new Forest Code has, to some degree, weakened the parameters of native vegetation protection, particularly in areas illegally used for agricultural activities before 2008, it still retains a relatively stringent set of rules for private lands compared to the regulations of other reviewed countries.

Nevertheless, the Forest Code will only be able to promote the sustainability of Brazilian agricultural production if it is fully and effectively implemented and enforced.