U.S.-Brazil Environmental Cooperation

August 31, 2021

“Addressing the climate crisis requires impactful global partnerships and Brazil will be a key partner in identifying and implementing solutions for this crisis.”

John Kerry
U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, on May 13, 2021.

Brazil and the United States share both similar environmental challenges and a history of working together productively. Our two nations will continue to collaborate on the protection and preservation of the environment while promoting the growth of our economies. Environmental cooperation between the U.S. and Brazil is focused on addressing critical challenges such as:

  • Fighting climate change by pursuing ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, sharing best practices, and building capacity among Brazilian stakeholders;
  • Fire prevention and management by working with specialized Brazilian entities to build capacity and invest in fire prevention, investigation and management programs; 
  • Promoting sustainable forest economies mainly by promoting the conservation of the Amazon forest and its biodiversity through sustainable development and investment;
  • Protecting the urban environment by sharing expertise/best practices and investing in institutional capacity building, with an emphasis in water management;
  • Combating conservation crimes by partnering in identifying, investigating and prosecuting conservation crimes, building law enforcement capacity of Brazilian government officials and local communities, and enhancing collaboration at national and local levels;
  • Preventing and responding to environmental disasters by exchanging information and best practices, partnering in managing and investigating incidents, and improving relevant regulatory frameworks; and
  • Promoting planning and management of public lands for conservation and tourism by working with local communities to improve use and management of public land and protected areas, and increase their economic performance.

Climate Change

Brazil is one of the top ten greenhouse gas emitters together with the United States, the  world’s second largest emitter.Both countries have a critical role in in enhancing climate ambition to reach net zero emissions globally by 2050.

  • At the April 2021 Leaders’ Summit on Climate, the U.S announced an ambitious new climate target to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels in 2030, while Brazil committed to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, eliminate illegal deforestation by 2030, and doubling the enforcement budget to combat deforestation.
  • The two countries maintain a technical dialogue focused on securing ambitious emission reductions by eliminating illegal deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.
  • The U.S. will seek to work with Brazil to build capacity among federal, state, and local governments, indigenous peoples, civil society, and other stakeholders to address the issues driving deforestation and associated greenhouse gas emissions.

Fire Prevention and Management

USAID works with a variety of specialized Brazilian entities and the Brazilian Environment Ministry’s (MMA) in designing activities and capacity building for fire prevention and control, not only for these institutions but also for community members.  USAID’s support includes funding totaling $5 million.

  • In 2021 USAID expanded its fire management cooperation work with Brazil’s Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), ICMBio, National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) and other Brazilian partners.
  • In May 2021 USAID and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) signed a regional partnership agreement that includes $5 million for continued support for fire management in Brazil. The USFS provides a virtual training for wildland fire prevention and enforcement professionals, in partnership with ICMBio and IBAMA.
  • Specifically, USAID is supporting a US$500,000 fire management program for the 2021 fire season to build the Brazilian Environment Ministry’s (MMA) capacity to identify fire origin, and manage, prevent, and communicate fire causes.
  • Since 2015, USFS technical experts have worked closely with ICMBio, USAID, and local partners to build fire prevention and management capacity, including training more than 500 indigenous leaders and community members. USFS’ cooperation with Brazilian agencies started in 1992.

Sustainable Forest Economies

USAID has been leading the cooperation work on sustainable forest economies in Brazil. The bulk of the engagement and partnerships targets the conservation, protection, and sustainable development of the Amazon. USAID has implemented and funded two key partnerships: Partnership for the Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity (PCAB) and Partnership Platform for the Amazon (PPA). USAID also granted seed funding for the Amazon Biodiversity Fund (ABF).   

  • USAID’s Partnership for the Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity (PCAB) is a US$ 10-15 million per year initiative to encourage sustainable economic growth, protect biodiversity, and support Brazil’s management of protected areas.
  • The Partnership Platform for the Amazon (PPA), a collective action platform formed by 40+ private sector and NGOs aims to develop and identify innovative tangible solutions for the sustainable development and conservation of the Amazon’s biodiversity. The PPA’s acceleration program has invested US$ 1 million in 30 Amazonian startups and funded research on avenues for sustainable private sector investment in the Amazon.   
  • USAID support to USFS has leveraged over R$ 2 million in sustainable working capital; supported facilities for local processing of Brazil nuts, acai, and fish; strengthened 30 community-based organizations; and improved capacity of 500 producers in business management and social organization in Amazonas, Pará, and Rondônia.
  • Funded by USAID, local NGO IEB leads a consortium of partners, including the USFS, supporting the development of sustainable value chains with territorial and environmental management on Indigenous lands and other Protected Areas (Unidades de Conservação) in the states of Amazonas, Rondônia, and Pará, with a priority focus on Brazil-nut, pirarucu fish, açaí fruit, community-based managed timber and community-based tourism. Activities take place in 26 indigenous lands and 22 conservation units, and benefit approximately 400 traditional and indigenous communities located in and around these protected areas.
  • USAID supports Gosto da Amazônia, an initiative led by local NGO IEB. with the goal of expanding the consumption of sustainably managed wild pirarucu (Arapaima gigas) fish domestically and internationally.   
  • USAID granted US$ 15 million as seed funding for the Amazon (Althelia) Biodiversity Fund (ABF) through its partnership with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). ABF plans to fund-raise about R$ 300 million by 2022 in mostly private investment for economic activities to conserve biodiversity and improve local livelihoods in the Amazon. In March 2021, the ABF contracted the first two businesses (Manioca and Horta da Terra) with a total investment of R$ 10 million.

Protecting the Urban Environment

In January 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the MMA signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to strengthen and coordinate efforts to protect our nations’ environments. Under the MOU, U.S. and Brazilian agencies have collaborated to train Brazilian specialists, share expertise and best practices for water and wastewater management with Brazil’s National Water Agency (ANA) and deliver training courses and capacity building.

  • The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and EPA, working together with Brazil’s National Water Agency (ANA), have trained over 400 Brazilian scientists, engineers, and regulators in dozens of classes on dam safety and management, water flow monitoring, stream gauge network design, and data management. Furthermore, USGS and EPA experts shared expertise with ANA partners to develop water quality assessments and share best practices for water and wastewater management.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has supported ANA partners in the field of flood risk management and provided training courses, workshops, technical documents, technical visits to the United States, and “on-the-job training” within USACE.

Combatting Conservation Crimes 

The U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and other partners provide law enforcement and investigation training for Brazilian counterparts to support their efforts to combat wildlife trafficking, illegal logging, and other conservation crimes. U.S. and Brazilian authorities continue to collaborate to ensure the sustainable and legal trade in native forest products from Brazil and have initiated several transnational timber trafficking investigations. USAID, another important U.S. player in this field, supports community-based management and monitoring in the Amazon’s protected areas and indigenous lands.

  • In 2021, the U.S. FWS will host two separate iterations of the International Conservation Chiefs Academy (ICCA), providing adaptive leadership training for a diverse cohort of emerging conservation law enforcement leaders from Brazil. One example of bilateral efforts to combat wildlife trafficking culminated in September 16, 2020, when the U.S. FWS returned to Brazil 21 endangered splash-backed poison frogs (“sapos ponta-de-flecha” in Portuguese), trafficked into the United States in 2018 and seized at the Miami International Airport.
  • On April 22, 2021, agents and officers of the U.S. FWS, Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Brazilian Federal Police executed search warrants in the State of Maryland, in support of a transnational investigation into illegal wildlife trafficking. The U.S./Brazil joint investigation expanded to include coordination with European authorities. A global network of 84 individuals from 24 countries trafficking in  endangered and rare species of live killifish (Cyprinodontidae sp.) was identified as a result.   
  • In 2020, working directly with Brazilian authorities, the U.S. FWS and U.S. Customs & Border Protection seized over 283 metric tons of illegally harvested and exported Brazilian tropical hardwoods at U.S. ports. These investigations have also focused on dismantling the transnational organized criminal networks engaged in this activity and combatting corruption and financial crimes associated with the trafficking of timber from the Brazilian Amazon.
  • In 2019, more than 100 Brazilian government officials were trained in law enforcement and investigation by U.S. partners.
  • USAID activities in 2020 focused on training 1,159 volunteer community environmental agents (1,039 were Indigenous Peoples); building capacity of 3,564 Indigenous Peoples and Quilombola communities; developing sustainable value chains for timber and non-timber forest products and pirarucu fish; and supporting the development and implementation of public policies related to environmental and territorial management, such as the National Policy for Environmental and Management of Indigenous Lands (PNGATI).

Combatting Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing

In January 2021, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) leveraged a new maritime domain awareness information-sharing MOU with the Brazilian Navy and operationalized the USCG’s IUU Fishing Strategic Outlook during Operation Southern Cross by Coast Guard Cutter STONE. The U.S. Coast Guard and Brazilian counterparts also took part in maritime law enforcement engagements including various at-sea drills and shore side law enforcement training.

Preventing and Responding to Environmental Disasters

Following the occurrence of two environmental disasters in 2019 — the oil spill that appeared on Brazil’s Atlantic Coast and collapse of a mining waste (tailings) dam in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais — U.S. agencies supported Brazil’s efforts to manage and investigate the origin of such disasters, exchange best practices on science and technology related to oil spill response and restoration, and working together to improve regulatory aspects of dam safety.

  • In 2019, U.S. agencies through the U.S. National Response Team supported Brazil’s efforts to manage and investigate the origin of the oil spill that appeared on Brazil’s Atlantic Coast with technical exchanges, satellite imagery analysis, and modeling.
  • Continuing this work in May 2021, NOAA and the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation hosted a 3-day virtual workshop to exchange best practices on science and technology related to oil spill response and restoration.
  • Following the 2019 collapse of a mining waste (tailings) dam in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, U.S. Mining Safety and Health (MSHA) and Brazilian mining authorities continue working together to improve regulatory aspects of dam safety.

Planning and Management of Public Lands for Conservation and Tourism

USAID, USFS and Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) have worked closely on planning and management tools to improve capacity for public use, sustainable tourism, and effective management plans for public lands and protected areas, including indigenous lands. This work has led to expanded visitor management capacity and a 30% increase in public use activities in areas targeted, resulting in higher income for parks and guides. USAID incorporated community and regional engagement into planning development and maintenance of a variety of trail initiatives across Brazil. This included the creation of RedeTrilhas, a National Network of Long-Distance Trails linking 59 trails maintained by more than 3,000 volunteers.