Brazilian Paper Highlights Economic Benefits of Nature Conservation

Iguacu Falls, Brazil. Photo: Flickr/doug88888

By Antonio Pasolini

A new study released by the Brazilian Ministry of Environment and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) with the collaboration of a few other organizations, shows that environmental protection areas in Brazil have the potential to generate nearly US$3.7b annually.

Moreover, if necessary investments are made to support the infrastructure of national, state and municipal areas of biodiversity protection, there’s a potential to nearly double that amount by 2016.

The Ministry of Environment undertook the study to highlight the economic and social benefits of conservation areas for the country. To estimate the financial return of protected areas, the team involved in the project considered the volume of goods and services that is currently provided or could be provided by the area, such as products from sustainable forestry management, public visitation and avoided carbon emissions.

“Investing in protected areas does not mean wasting money; it is an investment that yields a very good return. For every real invested, there is a return of five,” said Fabio França, a Ministry of Environment official involved in the study.

Through sustainable forest management alone (following the current federal forest concession model), the use of wood could generate between US$755 million to US$1.3 billion, the study found.

“The potential is huge, with a major impact for local communities and no need for predatory deforestation,” stated Carlos Eduardo Young, a researcher at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and one of the authors of the study.

With the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro, the study estimates that Brazil’s sixty-seven national parks could receive at least 13.7 million visitors in conjunction with the events, with earnings of US$1 billion. The number could reach 20 million in 2016 if additional investments required for park infrastructure were made.

But avoided carbon emissions are where the big money is. The creation and maintenance of protected areas in Brazil have avoided the emission of 2.8 billion tons of carbon. Based on the current value of carbon stock on the voluntary market, the survey found that these protected areas could generate between US$1.8 billion and US$3.6 billion, which exceeds the government’s current spending on these areas plus the additional investments needed to consolidate protected areas.

The full Portuguese language study can be downloaded here.

Antonio Pasolini writes about alternative energy and green issues for Energy Refuge.

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