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Getting Greener by Going Black: The Priority Municipalities in Brazil

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Revised: September, 2014
Published: September, 2014

In 2007, 36 Brazilian municipalities were responsible for 45% of the deforestation in the Amazon Biome – an astonishing figure considering Brazil has 547 municipalities that transect the Biome. In 2008, the Brazilian Ministry of Environment set out to address this by blacklisting thirty-six municipalities, setting them as Municípios Prioritários (Priority Municipalities, or MPs). In following years, 14 more municipalities were added to the blacklist, seven in 2009 and another seven in 2011.

Because of the blacklist, the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama), which operates as the national environmental police and law enforcement authority, focused law enforcement activities on MPs, issuing fines and embargoing farms who were caught deforesting illegally. These activities were complemented by a series of actions that were not explicit in the original government decree but included political commitments led by local governments, changes in the approval of subsidized credit contracts, the refusal of meatpacking plants to buy cattle from embargoed farms, and development of local plans for sustainable production. This project investigates the effect of the MPs policy on deforestation in the Amazon and the mechanisms through which the policy had effect.

We find that the MPs policy avoided the clearing of 11,369 km2 of Amazon forest area between 2008 and 2011. This area is roughly equivalent to the size of the country of Jamaica. Total deforestation observed between 2008 and 2011 was 20,689 km2, 35% smaller than in the absence of the policy.

While the blacklist made a clear difference, we also investigate what pieces of the policy had the most impact, finding that the mechanism through which the policy reduced deforestation was increased monitoring and better law enforcement activities in these municipalities. In contrast, the policy had no impact on credit concessions and other economic activities. This indicates that both preservation and economic growth can happen simultaneously in the Amazon.

Material em português: Municípios Prioritários: Reputação ou Fiscalização?