Brazil sets final rules on the use of its forests

The Brazilian government published final rules on the use of its forests. These could push farmers to restore a huge amount of illegally cleared native vegetation and encourage the use of “tradeable forest credits”, which help to protect the environment. The new rules come two years after the approval of the law Forest Code, that was designed to safeguard the country’s forests.

Under the rules, owners of almost 6 million rural properties in Brazil will have a year to register with an online information database called CAR. The government will use the database to enforce legislation on how much native forest should be left untouched.

Landowners who cleared forests in excess of legal limits can now buy certificates representing portions of intact forests elsewhere where landowners have original vegetation in excess of what is required by law. Replanting trees will also allow landowners to comply with legal requirements for maintaining a minimum forested area.

The forest credits are the main asset to be traded on a new green exchange opened in Rio de Janeiro. The exchange, BVRio, was founded by Pedro Moura Costa, former owner of EcoSecurities, which once dominated the global trading of carbon credits.

A study published by Science magazine estimated that Brazilian landowners will have to restore 21 million hectares of illegally cleared forests. The article praised the option of compliance through the forest credits, saying the credits are also a financial incentive to keep standing forests that could be destroyed legally.