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Evaluating REDD+ at Subnational Level: Amazon Fund impacts in Alta Floresta, Brazil

Juliano Correa, Elias Cisneros, Jan Borner, Alexander Pfaff, Marcelo Costa, Raoni Rajao
Forest Policy and Economics 116:102178

PDF link iconThe Amazon Fund is the world’s largest program to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), funded with over US $1b donated by Norway and Germany between 2008 and 2017 to reward Brazil for prior deforestation reductions. Olhos D’Água da Amazônia is cited as a leading project success − with over one thousand small-to-medium-sized crop and livestock producers in the municipality of Alta Floresta, Mato Grosso State receiving more from the Amazon Fund than all but two other municipalities. To secure property rights, aid environmental planning, and raise farmers’ productivity and output diversity, the project helped farmers register in Brazil’s environmental cadaster and receive property certificates. Furthermore, Olhos D’Água supported milk and honey production and paid farmers to conserve riverine forest sites. We estimate causal effects of Olhos D’Água, versus a counterfactual estimate of what would have happened without the project, using a synthetic-control method. We build from the pool of blacklisted municipalities weighted averages (synthetic controls) that best match pre-treatment outcomes for Alta Floresta. Project effects are estimated as post-treatment differences between Alta Floresta and the synthetic controls. We find that the project increased new CAR registrations, and INCRA certifications, and may have moderately increased honey and milk production. Alta Floresta’s annual forest losses remained historically low but we find no clear causal effect of the project on deforestation rates. Our results support that rigorous impact evaluation can motivate and guide project improvements.

 

Investing in local capacity to respond to a federal environmental mandate: forest & economic impacts of the Green Municipality Program in the Brazilian Amazon

Erin Sills, Alexander Pfaff, Luiza Andrade, Justin Kirkpatrick, Rebecca Dickson
World Development 129:104891 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2020.104891

PDF link iconOver the past decade, the Brazilian federal government has offered a negative collective incentive to reduce deforestation by ‘blacklisting’ the municipalities in the Amazon with the highest deforestation rates. As for any unfunded mandate, the responses to blacklisting depend on both local incentives and local capacities. We evaluate a state program — Programa Municípios Verdes (PMV) or the Green Municipality Program — to increase the capacity of municipal governments in the state of Pará to respond to this federal incentive. The PMV is voluntary, as municipal governments choose whether to participate. To control for differences due to self-selection into the program, we employ quasi-experimental methods: two-way, fixed-effects regressions in matched samples of municipalities; and the synthetic control method that compares outcomes in a participating municipality to outcomes in a weighted blend of control municipalities. Neither approach suggests that the PMV reduced deforestation beyond the effect of the blacklist. We hypothesize that municipalities joined the PMV to ameliorate the costs of complying with blacklist requirements, including the costs of exiting the blacklist. We show that the PMV increased total value added – with substantial heterogeneity – in participating blacklisted municipalities, and that these gains likely are not due to agricultural intensification. They may result from reductions in compliance risk and cost that make economic investments in a municipality more appealing. In the long run, this could make forest conservation more socially and politically sustainable.

 

Impacts of protected areas vary with the level of government: comparing avoided deforestation across agencies in the Brazilian Amazon

Diego Herrera, Alexander Pfaff, Juan Robalino
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1802877116

PDF link iconProtected areas (PAs) are the leading tools to conserve forests. However, given their mixed effectiveness, we want to know when they have impacts internally and, if they do, when they have spillovers. Political economy posits roles for the level of government. One hypothesis is that federal PAs avoid more internal deforestation than state PAs since federal agencies consider gains for other jurisdictions. Such political differences as well as economic mechanisms can cause PA spillovers to vary greatly, even from “leakage,” more deforestation elsewhere, to “blockage,” less deforestation elsewhere. We examine internal impacts and local spillovers for Brazilian Amazon federal and state agencies. Outside the region’s “arc of deforestation,” we confirm little internal impact and show no spillovers. In the “arc,” we test impacts by state, as states are large and feature considerably different dynamics. For internal impacts, estimates for federal PAs and indigenous lands are higher than for state PAs. For local spillover impacts, estimates for most arc states either are not significant or are not robust; however, for Pará, federal PAs and indigenous lands feature both internal impacts and local spillovers. Yet, the spillovers in Pará go in opposite directions across agencies, leakage for indigenous lands but blockage for federal PAs, suggesting a stronger external signal from the environmental agency. Across all these tools, only federal PAs lower deforestation internally and nearby. Results suggest that agencies’ objectives and capacities are critical parts of the contexts for conservation strategies.

Contracts versus Trust for Transfers of Nature’s Services: equity and efficiency in resource allocation and environmental provision

Alexander Pfaff, Maria Alejandra Velez, Amar Hamoudi, Renzo Taddei, Kenneth Broad
Water Resources & Economics 2018 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.wre.2018.04.001

PDF link iconManaging natural-resource allocation and environmental externalities is a challenge. Institutional designs are central when improving water quality for downstream users, for instance, and when reallocating water quantities including for climate adaptation. Views differ on which institutions are best: states; markets; or informal institutions. For transfers of ecosystem services, we compare informal trust-based institutions to enforced contracts, both being institutional types we observe commonly in the field. The trust-based institutions lack binding promises, thus ecosystem-services suppliers are unsure about the compensation they will receive for transferring services to users. We employ decision experiments given the shortcomings of the alternative methods for empirical study of institutions, as well as the limits on theoretical prediction about behaviors under trust. In our bargaining game that decouples equity and efficiency, we find that enforced contracts increased efficiency as well as all measures of equity. This informs the design of institutions to manage transfers of ecosystem services, as equity in surplus sharing is important in of itself and in permitting efficient allocation.

Land-use and land-cover change shape the sustainability and impacts of protected areas

Anteneh Tesfaw, Alexander Pfaff, Rachel E. Golden Kroner, Siyu Qin, Rodrigo Medeiros and Michael B. Mascia
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115(9):2084-2089 www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1716462115

PDF link iconProtected areas (PAs) remain the dominant policy to protect biodiversity and ecosystem services but have been shown to have limited impact when development interests force them to locations with lower deforestation pressure. Far less known is that such interests also cause widespread tempering, reduction, or removal of protection [i.e., PA downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement (PADDD)]. We inform responses to PADDD by proposing and testing a bargaining explanation for PADDD risks and deforestation impacts. We examine recent degazettements for hydropower development and rural settlements in the state of Rondônia in the Brazilian Amazon. Results support two hypotheses: (i) ineffective PAs (i.e., those where internal deforestation was similar to nearby rates) were more likely to be degazetted and (ii) degazettement of ineffective PAs caused limited, if any, additional deforestation. We also report on cases in which ineffective portions were upgraded. Overall our results suggest that enhancing PAs’ ecological impacts enhances their legal durability.

Roads & SDGs, Tradeoffs and Synergies: learning from Brazil’s Amazon in distinguishing frontiers

A.Pfaff, J.Robalino, R.Walker, S.Perz, W.Laurance, C.Bohrer, S.Aldrich, E.Arima, M.Caldas, K.Kirby
Economics Vol. 12, 2018-11 March 05, 2018 http://dx.doi.org/10.5018/economics-ejournal.ja.2018-11

PDF link iconTo reduce SDG tradeoffs in infrastructure provision, and to inform searches for SDG synergies, the authors show that roads’ impacts on Brazilian Amazon forests varied significantly across frontiers. Impacts varied predictably with prior development – prior roads and prior deforestation – and, further, in a pattern that suggests a potential synergy for roads between forests and urban growth. For multiple periods of roads investments, the authors estimate forest impacts for high, medium and low prior roads and deforestation. For each setting, census-tract observations are numerous. Results confirm predictions for this kind of frontier of a pattern not consistent with endogeneity, i.e., short-run forest impacts of new roads are: small for relatively high prior development; larger for medium prior development; and small for low prior development (for the latter setting, impacts in such isolated areas could rise over time, depending on interactions with conservation policies). These Amazonian results suggest ‘SDG strategic’ locations for infrastructure, an idea the authors note for other frontiers while highlighting major differences across frontiers and their SDG opportunities.

 

Regional Interdependence and Forest “Transitions”: substitute deforestation limits the relevance of local reversals

Alexander Pfaff, Robert Walker
Land Use Policy 2010 27:119–129

PDF link iconUsing case studies and concepts we suggest that constraints upon aggregate or global forest transition are significantly more severe than those upon local forest reversals. The basic reason is that one region’s reversal can be facilitated by other regions that supply resources and goods, reducing the demands upon the region where forests rise. Many past forest reversals involve such interdependence. For ‘facilitating regions’ also to rise in forest requires other changes, since they will not be receiving such help. We start by discussing forest-transitions analysis within the context of Environmental Kuznets Curves (EKCs), for a useful typology of possible shifts underlying transitions. We then consider the historical Northeast US where a regional reversal was dramatic and impressive. Yet this depended upon agricultural price shocks, due to the Midwest US supplying food, and also upon the availability of timber from other US regions. Next we consider deforestation in Amazônia, whose history (like the Northeast US) suggests a potential local role for urbanization, i.e. spatial concentration of population. Yet inter-regional issues again are crucial. For cattle and soy, expansion of global demands may give to Amazonia a role more like the Midwest than the Northeast US. In addition, across-region interdependencies will help determine where reversal and facilitation occur. Finally we discuss the constraints upon very broad forest transition.