Much of South America’s Amazon rainforest will continue to be clean, lush, and green-thanks in part to a country on the other side of the world.
In 2008, when the Amazon was facing a severe deforestation crisis, Norway, a country made rich from oil and gas production (and the biggest donor to protect tropical rainforests), pledged $1 billion to the government of Brazil if it could slow down the destruction. Doing so would protect the forest’s wildlife and also enormously reduce climate-harming greenhouse gas emissions, which are produced when forests are burned to make way for human development.
Brazil has more than risen to the task. By enforcing strict protection laws, promoting education efforts, and withholding loans to local counties that clear too much of the forest, the country has scaled back its forest destruction rate by 75%. It’s estimated that Brazilian farmers and ranchers have saved more than 33,000 square miles (roughly 53,100 square kilometers) of forest-equivalent to 14.3 million soccer fields-from being cut down.
This week, an applauding Norwegian government said it will pay out the country’s final $100 million-rounding out its $1 billion promise-to Brazil at a December UN summit on climate change. In a statement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the deal an “outstanding example” of international collaboration on sustainability.
Brazil’s blazing success in deforestation reduction is, indeed, a model for other countries-particularly the others that occupy the Amazon rainforest. Its Norway-subsidized efforts have translated into the largest emissions cut in the world, preventing roughly 3.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s, by the way, how much America would save by taking all the cars off its roads for three years.