To Eliminate Deforestation in South America, Reduce Differences in Regulations Across Regions and Actors

Salvador, Brazil by Felipe Dias. Photo via Unsplash.

The expansion of soy and cattle production has caused extensive deforestation in South American biomes such as the Amazon, the Cerrado, the Atlantic Forest and the Gran Chaco. This has prompted the emergence of new environmental governance initiatives, including: reducing the amount of forest that can be legally cleared, improving the ability of enforcement agencies to identify and track illegal deforestation, certifying farms that have not deforested recently and refusing to purchase products from land that has been deforested recently.

Pulling from research done at the Boston University Global Development Policy Center and Stanford University, a policy brief from Rachael Garrett, Eric Lambin and Yann le Poulin de Waroux uses interviews with farmers, agricultural census data and literature reviews to analyze regional discrepancies in the design, adoption and implementation of deforestation policies.

Key findings:
  • Effective deforestation regulations are implemented in places with high conservation value and low opportunity costs.
  • Restrictive deforestation regulations drive away large-scale farms that rely on forest clearing.
  • Increasing regulations do not slow down agricultural expansion, suggesting that large farms avoiding regulations are replaced by smaller farms.
  • Increasing deforestation restrictions makes production costlier, causing major importers to shift to cheaper, less regulated areas. This shift is partially compensated by rising domestic consumption, and by increasing demand from quality-drive importers.

The authors recommend harmonizing deforestation governance efforts across regions, particularly for multi-national zero-deforestation commitments. This will reduce incentives for large farms to escape regulations. They also recommend closing loopholes for small or indirect suppliers and domestic consumption markets to avoid displacing deforestation to other supply chain actors.

Read the Policy Brief