By Climate Scorecard Brazil Country Manager Elis Cotosky
Besides governments and the private sector, there is one important player in the climate mitigation arena: NGOs.
In Brazil, one NGO doing remarkable work in the climate change area is SOS Mata Atlântica. Founded in 1986 by a group of scientists, journalists, and activists, the nonprofit’s mission is to inspire society in the defense of the Atlantic forest. In doing so, they aim to protect one of the most diverse and devastated biomes in the world, which has only 10% of its original land remaining.¹
To achieve this mission, SOS Mata Atlântica divides its attention across four main causes: forest restoration, park and national reserve valorization, clean water, and sea protection. Through these focuses, the organization has planted more than 40 million native trees, gathered more than 3500 people to monitor rivers in 17 states, provided financial support to over 500 parks and reserves, connected over 2 million people interested in the cause through social media, and more.
A deep dive into the NGO’s climate actions
When analyzing the NGO’s actions that are most effective at reducing CO2 emissions, there is one project that stands out: Florestas do Futuro. It was founded in 2004 to unite civil society, companies, landowners, and governments in collaborative projects of forest restoration.
Florestas do Futuro is divided into 3 main areas of work (carbon sequestration, biodiversity maintenance, and hydric resource preservation) and has yielded impressive results. According to the initiative’s webpage, more than 40 million trees have been planted since the project’s beginning, thus restoring 23 hectares of forest land and helping to remove more than 6.5 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Figure 1: Native trees planted throughout the Atlantic Forest by the Florestas do Futuro program
And it does not stop there. The NGO had another important reforestation project previous to Florestas do Futuro: the Clickarvore program. This program was started in 2000 by SOS Mata Atlântica in partnership with the Vidágua environmental institute and the Grupo Abril, one of the biggest media conglomerates in Brazil. The idea was extremely innovative for its time and consisted of transforming clicks online (on the websites of the sponsoring organizations) into trees planted. Each click corresponded to one new tree funded by either private partner companies, such as Bradesco Bank, or the civil society, through an e-commerce initiative. All the seeds were originally from the Atlantic forest and were distributed to small producers, local communities, and city halls – throughout the 17 states that the forest covers – who then planted the future trees.
Scaling-up reforestation initiatives
As already mentioned in previous Climate Scorecard posts, Brazilian emissions are highly related to LULUCF. Thus, projects in this area can be effective in reducing the country’s carbon footprint, as they work on one of the biggest environmental pain points in the country. Other NGOs should pursue projects similar to SOS Mata Atlântica. They should work in collaboration with civilians, landowners, companies, and governmental entities concerned with this problem.
Finally, reforestation projects are not, and should not be, limited to Brazil. According to the study “The global tree restoration potential“, the world’s forest land can still be increased by up to one-third of current levels without affecting urban landscapes or agriculture. In terms of climate mitigation, this would mean reducing the carbon concentration in the atmosphere by 25%, after the planted trees are fully grown. For that to happen, it is essential that organizations, both local and international, work to bring collaboration and credibility to the process by allowing people, companies, and governments to invest time and money in their initiatives.² An international example is the 1T.org platform from The World Economic Forum, which has the mission to conserve, restore, and grow 1 trillion trees by 2030.
Mr. Carlos Rittl, Executive Secretary, Observatório do Clima³
- To learn more about the Atlantic forest, please visit: Atlantic Florest – Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation
- Another study published in Science magazine analyzed countries with lower land opportunity costs and higher long-term potential for reforestation and concluded that the most promising candidates for such restoration are all in Africa, and include: Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Togo, South Sudan, and Madagascar. To learn more, please visit: Global restoration opportunities in tropical rainforest landscapes – Science Journals
- Observatório do Clima is a network of more than 37 organizations, united to research and discuss climate change matters within the Brazilian context. To learn more, please visit: Who we are – Observatório do Clima