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Close to a Tipping Point? The Amazon and the Challenge of Sustainable Development under Growing Climate Pressures

  • Joana C. Pereira (a1) and Eduardo Viola (a2)


This commentary examines the challenge of sustainable development in the Amazon, arguing that global efforts to mitigate climate change and current Amazonian policies are clearly inadequate to prevent global warming and deforestation from tipping the forest into a savanna. It analyses the growing climate pressures jeopardising the Amazon's resilience; the erratic Brazilian, Bolivian, Colombian, Ecuadorian and Peruvian governance of the forest; and the failure of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) to establish long-term forest conservation policies in the region. The research demonstrates that the ‘savannisation hypothesis’ is potentially closer to reality than most debates in the social sciences assume and should be considered seriously. The commentary concludes by suggesting possible pathways for preventing the dieback of the Amazon. These are based on three strategic axes: the strengthening of the ACTO, the promotion of a technological revolution in the forest, and a progressive environmental diplomacy by the Amazonian countries.

Spanish abstract

Este comentario examina los desafíos al desarrollo sustentable en la Amazonia, argumentando que los esfuerzos globales para mitigar el cambio climático y las políticas actuales amazónicas son claramente inadecuados para evitar que el calentamiento global y la deforestación transformen la selva en una sabana. El material analiza las crecientes presiones climáticas que ponen en peligro la resistencia amazónica; la errática gobernanza brasileña, boliviana, colombiana, ecuatoriana y peruana para la selva; y el fracaso de la Organización del Tratado de Cooperación Amazónica (OTCA) para establecer políticas de conservación forestales de largo plazo en la región. La investigación demuestra que potencialmente la ‘hipótesis de sabanización’ está más cerca de la realidad que lo asumido por la mayoría de los debates en ciencias sociales y debe de ser seriamente considerada. El comentario concluye sugiriendo rutas posibles para prevenir la extinción de la Amazonia. Estas se basan en tres ejes estratégicos: el fortalecimiento de la OTCA, la promoción de una revolución tecnológica en la selva y una diplomacia ecológica progresista de parte de los países amazónicos.

Portuguese abstract

Este comentário examina a dificuldade de um desenvolvimento sustentável na Amazônia, argumentando que os esforços globais para mitigar a mudança climática e as políticas atuais para a Amazônia são claramente inadequados para prevenir que o aquecimento global e um desmatamento levem a floresta a se tornar um cerrado. O comentário analisa as crescentes pressões climáticas que ameaçam a resiliência da Amazônia; a errática governança da floresta por parte dos governos do Brasil, Bolívia, Colômbia, Equador e Peru; e a falha da ACTO (Organização do Tratado de Cooperação da Amazônia) em estabelecer políticas de conservação a longo prazo na região. A pesquisa mostra que a ‘hipótese de savanização’ da floresta tropical está potencialmente mais perto da realidade do que muitos debates nas Ciências Sociais admitem e deveria ser considerada mais seriamente. O comentário conclui sugerindo possíveis maneiras de prevenir a extinção da Amazônia. As sugestões são baseadas em três eixos estratégicos: o fortalecimento da ACTO, o incentivo a uma revolução tecnológica na floresta e uma diplomacia ambiental progressista entre os países Amazônicos.


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1 Brienen, R. J. W., Phillips, O. L., Feldpausch, T. R., Gloor, E., Baker, T. R., Lloyd, J., Lopez-Gonzalez, G. et al. , ‘Long-Term Decline of the Amazon Carbon Sink’, Nature, 519 (2015), pp. 344–8.

2 Defined as ‘a biomass loss of at least 25% of the total biomass in 2070–2100 in comparison to 1970–2000’. See: Rammig, Anja, Jupp, Tim, Thonicke, Kirsten, Tietjen, Britta, Heinke, Jens, Ostberg, Sebastian, Lucht, Wolfgang et al. , ‘Estimating the Risk of Amazonian Forest Dieback’, New Phytologist, 187: 3 (2010), pp. 694706.

3 Lovejoy, Thomas E. and Nobre, Carlos, ‘Amazon Tipping Point’, Science Advances, 4: 2 (2018).

4 Nobre, C. A., Sampaio, G., Borma, L. S., Castilla-Rubio, J. C. and Cardoso, M., ‘Land-Use and Climate Change Risks in the Amazon and the Need of a Novel Sustainable Development Paradigm’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113: 39 (2016), pp. 10759–68.

5 Baccini, A., Walker, W., Carvalho, L., Farina, M., Sulla-Menashe, D. and Houghton, R. A., ‘Tropical Forests Are a Net Carbon Source Based on Aboveground Measurements of Gain and Loss’, Science, 358: 6360 (2017), pp. 230–4; Brienen et al., ‘Long-Term Decline of the Amazon Carbon Sink’; Lovejoy and Nobre, ‘Amazon Tipping Point’; Nobre et al., ‘Land-Use and Climate Change Risks in the Amazon’; Zemp, D. C., Schleussner, C.-F., Barbosa, H. M. J. and Rammig, A., ‘Deforestation Effects on Amazon Forest Resilience’, Geophysical Research Letters, 44: 12 (2017), pp. 6182–90.

6 Pereira, Joana C. and Viola, Eduardo, ‘Catastrophic Climate Change and Forest Tipping Points: Blind Spots in International Politics and Policy’, Global Policy, 9: 4 (2018), pp. 513–24; Pereira, Joana C. and Viola, Eduardo, ‘Catastrophic Climate Risk and Brazilian Amazonian Politics and Policies: A New Research Agenda’, Global Environmental Politics, 19: 2 (2019), pp. 93103.

7 Brazil accounts for approximately 68% of the entire Amazonian forest; together, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru account for almost 27% of the region. Venezuela, French Guyana, Guyana and Suriname account for the remaining 5.5%. See PNUMA/OTCA/CIUP, ‘Perspectivas do meio ambiente na Amazônia’ (2009): All URLs were last accessed 11 March 2020. In this commentary, our analysis covers approximately 95% of the Amazon; we do not include discussion of the state of the forest in Venezuela, French Guyana, Guyana and Suriname for data availability reasons.

8 Brazil accounts for half of the region's population and GDP. The country has been a key driver in South America. In the 2000s, the election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the candidate of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party, PT), was influential in the electoral victories of several leftist candidates in other countries in the region who favoured increased intervention by the state in the economy and whose power was based on a strong charismatic leader. Since 2014, the continuous growth of an extensive and profound anti-corruption investigation – ‘Operation Car Wash’ – in Brazil has promoted similar campaigns in many South American countries. Since the operation began, corruption has risen up the agenda and become a major issue in public debates in the region. In addition, as we shall see, following deforestation control in the Brazilian Amazon, forest loss by deforestation declined in almost all other Amazonian countries.

9 In this regard, see, for instance, Pereira, Joana C., ‘The Limitations of IR Theory Regarding the Environment: Lessons from the Anthropocene’, Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 60: 1 (2017) and Pereira and Viola, ‘Catastrophic Climate Change and Forest Tipping Points’.

10 Steffen, Will, Richardson, Katherine, Rockström, Johan, Cornell, Sarah E., Fetzer, Ingo, Bennett, Elena M., Biggs, Reinette et al. , ‘Planetary Boundaries: Guiding Human Development on a Changing Planet’, Science, 347: 6223 (2015).

11 In this regard, see, for instance, Burke, Anthony, Fishel, Stefanie, Mitchell, Audra, Dalby, Simon and Levine, Daniel J., ‘Planet Politics: A Manifesto from the End of IR’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 44: 3 (2016), pp. 499523.

12 Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

13 Brando, Paulo Monteiro, Balch, Jennifer K., Nepstad, Daniel C., Morton, Douglas C., Putz, Francis E., Coe, Michael T., Silvério, Divino et al. , ‘Abrupt Increases in Amazonian Tree Mortality due to Drought–Fire Interactions’, Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, 111: 17 (2014), pp. 6347–52.

14 Exbrayat, Jean-François, Liu, Yi Y. and Williams, Mathew, ‘Impact of Deforestation and Climate on the Amazon Basin's Above-Ground Biomass during 1993–2012’, Scientific Reports, 7 (2017).

15 de Faria, Bruno L., Brando, Paulo M., Macedo, Marcia N., Panday, Prajjwal K., Soares-Filho, Britaldo S. and Coe, Michael T., ‘Current and Future Patterns of Fire-Induced Forest Degradation in Amazonia’, Environmental Research Letters, 12: 9 (2017).

16 Jiménez-Muñoz, Juan C., Mattar, Cristian, Barichivich, Jonathan, Santamaría-Artigas, Andrés, Takahashi, Ken, Malhi, Yadvinder, Sobrino, José A. et al. , ‘Record-Breaking Warming and Extreme Drought in the Amazon Rainforest during the Course of El Niño 2015–2016’, Scientific Reports, 6 (2016).

17 de Andrade, Rafael B., Balch, Jennifer K., Parsons, Amoreena L., Armenteras, Dolors, Roman-Cuesta, Rosa M. and Bulkan, Janette, ‘Scenarios in Tropical Forest Degradation: Carbon Stock Trajectories for Redd+’, Carbon Balance and Management, 12: 6 (2017).

18 Bathiany, Sebastian, Dakos, Vasilis, Scheffer, Marten and Lenton, Timothy M., ‘Climate Models Predict Increasing Temperature Variability in Poor Countries’, Science Advances, 4: 5 (2018).

19 Duffy, Philip B., Brando, Paulo, Asner, Gregory P. and Field, Christopher B., ‘Projections of Future Meteorological Drought and Wet Periods in the Amazon’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112: 43 (2015), pp. 13172–7.

20 de Faria et al., ‘Current and Future Patterns of Fire-Induced Forest Degradation in Amazonia’.

21 Malhi, Yadvinder, Gardner, Toby A., Goldsmith, Gregory R., Silman, Miles R. and Zelazowski, Przemyslaw, ‘Tropical Forests in the Anthropocene’, Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 39 (2014), pp. 125–59.

22 IPCC, ‘Summary for Policymakers’, in V. Masson-Delmotte et al. (eds.), Global Warming of 1.5 °C: An IPCC Special Report on the Impacts of Global Warming of 1.5 °C above Pre-Industrial Levels and Related Global Greenhouse Gas Emission Pathways, in the Context of Strengthening the Global Response to the Threat of Climate Change, Sustainable Development, and Efforts to Eradicate Poverty (Geneva: World Meteorological Organization, 2018).

23 Henley, Benjamin J. and King, Andrew D., ‘Trajectories toward the 1.5 °C Paris Target: Modulation by the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation’, Geophysical Research Letters, 44: 9 (2017), pp. 4256–62.

24 Data from the independent Climate Action Tracker (CAT):

25 Warren, Rachel, Price, Jeff, VanDerWal, Jeremy, Cornelius, Stephen and Sohl, Heather, ‘The Implications of the United Nations Paris Agreement on Climate Change for Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas’, Climatic Change, 147: 3 (2018), pp. 395409.

26 ‘Planetary boundaries’ are ‘the environmental limits within which humanity can safely operate’. See Steffen et al., ‘Planetary Boundaries’.

27 Ibid.

28 Gaffney, Owen and Steffen, Will, ‘The Anthropocene Equation’, The Anthropocene Review, 4: 1 (2017), pp. 5361.

29 Steffen, Will, Rockström, Johan, Richardson, Katherine, Lenton, Timothy M., Folke, Carl, Liverman, Diana, Summerhayes, Colin P. et al. , ‘Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115: 33 (2018), pp. 8252–9.

30 Pereira and Viola, ‘Catastrophic Climate Change and Forest Tipping Points’.

31 Houghton, Richard A., Birdsey, Richard A., Nassikas, Alexander and McGlinchey, David, Forests and Land Use: Undervalued Assets for Global Climate Stabilization (Woods Hole Research Center, 2017).

33 Data from the Brazilian Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (National Institute for Space Research, INPE):

34 Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP), ‘MAAP Synthesis: 2019 Amazon Deforestation Trends and Hotspots’:

35 Ibid.

36 Ibid.

37 Ibid.

39 La Rovere, Emilio Lèbre, Dubeux, Carolina B., Pereira, Amaro Olimpio Jr. and Wills, William, ‘Brazil beyond 2020: From Deforestation to the Energy Challenge’, Climate Policy, 13 (2013), pp. 7086; Viola, Eduardo and Franchini, Matías, Brazil and Climate Change: Beyond the Amazon (New York and Abingdon: Routledge, 2018). It should be noted that deforestation control in Brazil has led to negative spill-overs in the form of leakage of agricultural activities and deforestation to other Amazonian countries, such as Bolivia. See: Interview with Carlos A. Nobre, ‘Will Deforestation and Warming Push the Amazon to a Tipping Point?’, Yale Environment 360, 4 Sept. 2019:

40 Andreucci, Diego, ‘Populism, Hegemony, and the Politics of Natural Resource Extraction in Evo Morales's Bolivia’, Antipode, 50: 4 (2018), pp. 825–45.

41 Kauffman, Craig M. and Martin, Pamela L., ‘Constructing Rights of Nature Norms in the US, Ecuador, and New Zealand’, Global Environmental Politics, 18: 4 (2018), pp. 4362.

42 Becerra, Manuel Rodríguez, ‘¿Hacer más verde al Estado colombiano?’, Revista de Estudios Sociales, 32 (2009), pp. 1833; Valqui, Michael, Feather, Conrad and Llanos, Roberto E., Haciendo visible lo invisible: Perspectivas indígenas sobre la deforestación en la Amazonía peruana (Lima: AIDESEP/Forest Peoples Programme, 2014).

43 Viola and Franchini, Brazil and Climate Change.

44 Pereira and Viola, ‘Catastrophic Climate Risk’.

46 Hirsch, Cecilie, ‘Makers and Shapers of Environmental Policy Making: Power and Participation in Forest Legislation in Bolivia’, Journal of Rural Studies, 50 (2017), pp. 148–58.

47 Gautreau, Pierre and Bruslé, Laetitia Perrier, ‘Forest Management in Bolivia under Evo Morales: The Challenges of Post-Neoliberalism’, Political Geography, 68 (2019), pp. 110–21.

48 Valladares, Carolina and Boelens, Rutgerd, ‘Extractivism and the Rights of Nature: Governmentality, “Convenient Communities” and Epistemic Pacts in Ecuador’, Environmental Politics, 26: 6 (2017), pp. 1015–34, here p. 1024; Lu, Flora, Valdivia, Gabriela and Silva, Néstor L., Oil, Revolution, and Indigenous Citizenship in Ecuadorian Amazonia (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).

49 Villalba-Eguiluz, C. Unai and Etxano, Iker, ‘Buen Vivir vs Development (II): The Limits of (Neo-) Extractivism’, Ecological Economics, 138 (2017), pp. 111; Lewis, Tammy L., Ecuador's Environmental Revolutions: Ecoimperialists, Ecodependents, and Ecoresisters (Cambridge, MA, and London: The MIT Press, 2016).

50 Wilson, Japhy and Jiménez, Manuel Bayón, ‘The Nature of Post-Neoliberalism: Building Bio-Socialism in the Ecuadorian Amazon’, Geoforum, 81 (2017), pp. 5565.

51 Morley, Joanna, ‘… Beggars Sitting on a Sack of Gold’: Oil Exploration in the Ecuadorian Amazon as Buen Vivir and Sustainable Development’, The International Journal of Human Rights, 21: 4 (2017), pp. 405–41; here p. 426.

52 Survey by Confederação Nacional da Indústria / Instituto Brasileiro de Opinião Pública e Estatística (National Confederation of Industry / Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics, CNI/IBOPE):

53 Viola and Franchini, Brazil and Climate Change.

54 Kröger, Markus, ‘Inter-sectoral Determinants of Forest Policy: The Power of Deforesting Actors in Post-2012 Brazil’, Forest Policy and Economics, 77 (2017), pp. 2432.

55 Viola and Franchini, Brazil and Climate Change.

56 Ibid.

57 Bustos, María Camila, ‘What Shapes Colombia's Foreign Position on Climate Change?’, Colombia Internacional, 94 (2018), pp. 2751.

58 O'Toole, Gavin, Environmental Politics in Latin America and the Caribbean, vol. 2: Institutions, Policy and Actors (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2014).

59 Bustos, ‘What Shapes Colombia's Foreign Position on Climate Change?’

60 Luisa Fernanda Báez, ‘Balance ambiental de la gestión de Santos: Lo bueno y lo malo’, Latin American Post, 9 Aug. 2018:

61 Deborah Poole and Gerardo Rénique, ‘Peru: Humala Takes off his Gloves’, NACLA Report on the Americas, 22 March 2012:; Oxfam Latin America and the Caribbean Blog, ‘Captura política y desregulación ambiental: Un caso en el Perú’:

62 Environmental Investigation Agency (international, non-profit), ‘Peruvian Environment under Attack from Government, EIA Comments’, 19 March 2015:; Paul Shortell, ‘In Need of Investment, Peru Rolls back Environmental Standards’, World Politics Review, 28 July 2014:

63 Lust, Jan, ‘Social Struggle and the Political Economy of Natural Resource Extraction in Peru’, Critical Sociology, 42: 2 (2016), pp. 195210.

64 Fontaine, Guillaume, Narvez, Ivan and Velasco, Susan, ‘Explaining a Policy Paradigm Shift: A Comparison of Resource Nationalism in Bolivia and Peru’, Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, 20: 2 (2018), pp. 142–57; Avilés, William and Rosas, Yolima Rey, ‘Low-Intensity Democracy and Peru's Neoliberal State: The Case of the Humala Administration’, Latin American Perspectives, 44: 5 (2017), pp. 162–82.

65 Pereira and Viola, ‘Catastrophic Climate Risk’.

66 Alceu Luís Castilho, Brazilian Agribusiness Observatory, ‘Frente Parlamentar da Agropecuária compôs 50% dos votos do impeachment e 51% dos votos para manter Temer’:

67 Pereira and Viola, ‘Catastrophic Climate Risk’.

68 Fearnside, Philip M., ‘Challenges for Sustainable Development in Brazilian Amazonia’, Sustainable Development, 26: 2 (2018), pp. 141–9.

69 Alceu Luís Castilho, ‘55% dos novos votos a favor de Temer saíram da Frente Parlamentar da Agropecuária’, Brazilian Agribusiness Observatory:

70 Viola and Franchini, Brazil and Climate Change.

71 Overbeck, Gerhard E., Bergallo, Helena Godoy, Grelle, Carlos E. V., Akama, Alberto, Bravo, Freddy, Colli, Guarino R., Magnusson, William E. et al. , ‘Global Biodiversity Threatened by Science Budget Cuts in Brazil’, BioScience, 68: 1 (2017), pp. 1112.

72 Fernández-Llamazares, Álvaro and Rocha, Ricardo, ‘Bolivia Set to Violate Its Protected Areas’, Nature, 523: 158 (2015).

73 Krommes-Ravnsmed, Jeppe, ‘The Frustrated Nationalization of Hydrocarbons and the Plunder of Bolivia’, Latin American Perspectives, 46: 2 (2019), pp. 6583.

74 James Bargent, ‘Bolivia Raises Coca Cultivation Limits, Widens Legal Supply–Demand Gap’, InSight Crime, 24 Feb. 2017:

75 Fernández-Llamazares, Álvaro, Helle, Joose, Eklund, Johanna, Balmford, Andrew, Moraes, R. Mónica, Reyes-García, Victoria, Cabeza, Mar, ‘New Law Puts Bolivian Biodiversity Hotspot on Road to Deforestation’, Current Biology, 28: 1 (2018).

76 Emily Achtenberg, ‘Why is Evo Morales Reviving Bolivia's Controversial TIPNIS Road?’, NACLA Report on the Americas, 21 Aug. 2017:

77 ‘Corrupción en Bolivia es el “mayor problema”’, El País, 19 Sept. 2016:

78 Secretaría Nacional de Comunicación, ‘Ecuador pone en marcha Programa Integral Amazónico de Conservación de Bosques y Producción Sostenible’ (2017):

79 ‘Ecuador to Offer New Oil Concessions despite Government Pledge to the Contrary’, Amazon Watch, 1 March 2018:

80 Morley, ‘… Beggars Sitting on a Sack of Gold’.

81 María Belén Arroyo, ‘La maldición del oro rojo en Ecuador’, Mongabay, 30 Sept. 2018: The ‘red gold’ in the report title is a reference to the valuable cedar hardwood.

82 Information from the Ecuadorean Centro de Estudios y Datos (Centre for Studies and Data, CEDATOS):

83 ‘MAAP #96: Minería aurífera alcanza máximo histórico en la Amazonía sur peruana’:

84 Bennett, Aoife, Ravikumar, Ashwin and Cronkleton, Peter, ‘The Effects of Rural Development Policy on Land Rights Distribution and Land Use Scenarios: The Case of Oil Palm in the Peruvian Amazon’, Land Use Policy, 70 (2018), pp. 8493.

85 Aoife Bennett, Ashwin Ravikumar and Homero Paltán, ‘The Political Ecology of Oil Palm Company–Community Partnerships in the Peruvian Amazon: Deforestation Consequences of the Privatization of Rural Development’, World Development, 109, pp. 29–41, here p. 39.

86 Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (German Institute for Development Policy, DIE) / German Development Institute (DIE) / SERFOR, ‘Interpretación de la dinámica de la deforestación en el Perú y lecciones aprendidas para reducirla’ (2015):

87 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), ‘Coca Cultivation Area in Peru Increased by 14 per cent during 2017’ (2018):

88 Muñoz, Paula and Guibert, Yamilé, ‘Perú: El fin del optimismo’, Revista de Ciencia Política, 36: 1 (2016), pp. 313–38; McNulty, Stephanie, ‘Peru 2016: Continuity and Change in an Electoral Year’, S, 37: 2 (2017), pp. 563–87.

89 Suarez, Andres, Árias-Arévalo, Paola Andrea and Martínez-Mera, Eliana, ‘Environmental Sustainability in Post-Conflict Countries: Insights for Rural Colombia’, Environment, Development and Sustainability, 20 (2017), pp. 9971015.

90 Álvarez, María D., ‘Could Peace Be Worse than War for Colombia's Forests?’, Environmentalist, 21: 4 (2001), pp. 305–15.

91 Colombian Instituto de Hidrología, Meteorología y Estudios Ambientales (Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies, IDEAM), ‘Resultados monitoreo de la deforestación 2017’ (2018):

92 Maria Fernanda Lizcano, ‘Criminal Mafias Take over Colombian Forests’, Mongabay, 7 Sept. 2018:

93 Natalie Arenas, ‘Land Hoarding: What Colombia's New Administration Has Inherited’, Mongabay, 10 Sep. 2018:

94 Sarmiento, Manuel Bayona, ‘Fortalecer la institucionalidad: Prerrequisito para construir la paz en el postacuerdo colombiano’, Reflexión Política, 18: 35 (2016), pp. 144–57.

95 ‘La encrucijada de los bosques colombianos’, Semana, 9 March 2019:

96 Isabel Peñaranda, ‘Coca and Agriculture in Post-Peace Accord Colombia (Part I)’, NACLA Report on the Americas, 29 Nov. 2017:

97 McNeish, John-Andrew, ‘Extracting Justice? Colombia's Commitment to Mining and Energy as a Foundation for Peace’, The International Journal of Human Rights, 21: 4 (2017), pp. 500–16.

98 Morales, Lorenzo, La paz y la protección ambiental en Colombia: Propuestas para un desarrollo rural sostenible (Washington, DC: Diálogo Interamericano, 2017).

99 Antonio José Paz Cardona, ‘Colombia: El balance ambiental de Juan Manuel Santos y los enormes retos que le quedan a Iván Duque’, Mongabay, 6 Aug. 2018:

100 Oscar Medina, ‘Post-Conflict Colombia Seeks to Become Agricultural Powerhouse’, Bloomberg, 27 July 2017:

101 Salazar, Alejandro, Sanchez, Adriana, Villegas, Juan C., Salazar, Juan F., Carrascal, Daniel Ruiz, Sitch, Stephen, Restrepo, Juan Darío et al. , ‘The Ecology of Peace: Preparing Colombia for New Political and Planetary Climates’, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 16: 19 (2018), pp. 525–31.

102 ‘Maioria dos colombianos desaprova gestão de Iván Duque’, Exame, 16 Nov. 2018:

103 Pereira and Viola, ‘Catastrophic Climate Risk’.

104 ‘Desejo de mudança e rejeição ao PT alavancam candidatura de Bolsonaro’, Datafolha survey, 22 Oct. 2018:

105 Matos, Sergio Ricardo Reis, ‘Segurança e desenvolvimento nas políticas de defesa dos países da Organização do Tratado de Cooperação Amazônica’, Boletim Meridiano 47, 15: 144 (2014), pp. 1016.

106 The English copy of the signed treaty is available at

107 Ibid.

110 ‘Monitoreo de la Cobertura Forestal’,

111 Tigre, Maria Antonia, ‘Cooperation for Climate Mitigation in Amazonia: Brazil's Emerging Role as a Regional Leader’, Transnational Environmental Law, 5: 2 (2016), pp. 401–25.

112 Viviane Passos Gomes and Francisco Delgado Piqueras, ‘The Role of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty for Shared Water Management’, Actualidad Jurídica Ambiental, 53 (11 Jan. 2016):

113 Nunes, Paulo Henrique Faria, ‘A Organização do Tratado de Cooperação Amazônica: Uma análise crítica das razões por trás da sua criação e evolução’, Revista de Direito Internacional, 13: 2 (2016), pp. 219–45.

114 As of 15 March 2019:

115 Schenoni, Luis Leandro, ‘The Brazilian Rise and the Elusive South American Balance’, Giga Research Programme: Power, Norms, and Governance in International Relations, no. 269 (Hamburg: German Institute of Global and Area Studies, 2015).

116 Malamud, Andrés, ‘A Leader without Followers? The Growing Divergence between the Regional and Global Performance of Brazilian Foreign Policy’, Latin American Politics and Society, 53: 3 (2011), p. 8.

117 Ensuring that the sovereignty of the ACTO's member countries is respected and promoted is a strategic objective of the ‘Amazonian Strategic Cooperation Agenda’ approved in 2010 (see note 108).

118 On the issue of sovereignty and regional integration in Latin America, see, for instance, de Almeida, Paulo Roberto, ‘Sovereignty and Regional Integration in Latin America: A Political Conundrum?’, Contexto Internacional, 35: 2 (2013), pp. 471–95.

119 Garcia, Beatriz, The Amazon from an International Law Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

120 Tigre, Maria Antonia, Regional Cooperation in Amazonia: A Comparative Environmental Law Analysis (Leiden and Boston, MA: Brill/Nijhoff, 2017).

121 It is worth noting the timing of the three meetings of presidents under the aegis of the ACT thus far: the first was held in 1989 after the IPCC was founded and climate change became an international concern; the second one occurred in 1992, four months before the Earth Summit (Rio92), where the UNFCCC was signed; and the last one was held in 2009, a few days before the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) in Copenhagen, a meeting for which there were high expectations of reaching a new climate deal.

122 See, for instance, Gardini, Gian Luca, ‘Towards Modular Regionalism: The Proliferation of Latin American Cooperation’, Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 58: 1 (2015), pp. 210–29.

123 Nunes, ‘A Organização do Tratado de Cooperação Amazônica’.

124 Since the Amazon is a transnational biome, transnational cooperation is a critical step to ensuring its preservation.

125 Becker, Bertha K., ‘Geopolitics of the Amazon’, Area Development and Policy, 1: 1 (2016), pp. 1529.

126 Tigre, ‘Cooperation for Climate Mitigation in Amazonia’.

127 Burkhart, Katie, McGrath-Horn, Maxwell C. and Unterstell, Natalie, ‘Comparison of Arctic and Amazon Regional Governance Mechanisms’, Polar Geography, 40: 2 (2017), pp. 144–61.

128 La Rovere, Emilio Lèbre, ‘Low-Carbon Development Pathways in Brazil and “Climate Clubs”’, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 8: 1 (2017).

129 See, for instance, Edwards, Guy and Roberts, J. Timmons, A Fragmented Continent: Latin America and the Global Politics of Climate Change (Cambridge, MA, and London: The MIT Press, 2015).

130 Viola and Franchini, Brazil and Climate Change.

131 La Rovere, ‘Low-Carbon Development Pathways in Brazil’, p. 5.

132 de Ciências, Academia Brasileira, Amazônia: Desafio brasileiro do século XXI. A necessidade de uma revolução científica e tecnológica (São Paulo: Academia Brasileira de Ciências e Fundação Conrado Wessel, 2008); Nobre et al., ‘Land-Use and Climate Change Risks in the Amazon’.

133 Pereira, Joana Castro, ‘Reducing Catastrophic Climate Risk by Revolutionizing the Amazon: Novel Pathways for Brazilian Diplomacy’, in Sequeira, Tiago and Reis, Liliana (eds.), Climate Change and Global Development: Market, Global Players and Empirical Evidence (Cham: Springer, 2019), pp. 189218; Viola and Franchini, Brazil and Climate Change.

134 Latin American countries are extremely rich in natural resources with significant low-carbon potential.

135 Pereira, ‘Reducing Catastrophic Climate Risk’; Viola and Franchini, Brazil and Climate Change.

136 Academia Brasileira de Ciências, Amazônia: Desafio brasileiro do século XXI. It is worth noting, nevertheless, that a technological revolution per se is an insufficient condition for conserving the Amazon. Considering the imminent risk of crossing a threshold, and the urgency of concrete answers, technology has a critical role to play in solving the problem. However, a paradigm shift in the way in which we relate to nature is also absolutely fundamental; otherwise, technology might become a vehicle for reinforcing unsustainable consumption patterns that jeopardise the forest's resilience. Discussing the new ethical and societal approach required to conserve the Amazon is beyond the scope of this commentary. For an early approach to the subject, see Nobre, Ismael and Nobre, Carlos A., ‘The Amazonia Third Way Initiative: The Role of Technology to Unveil the Potential of a Novel Tropical Biodiversity-Based Economy’, in Loures, Luis (ed.), Land Use: Assessing the Past, Envisioning the Future (London: IntechOpen, 2019), pp. 183213, where it is argued that science and its instruments can help people understand and recognise nature's intrinsic knowledge and value.

137 The 2010 supplementary agreement to the 1992 UN Convention on Biodiversity.

138 The level of ambition of the pledges presented thus far by most Amazonian countries is inconsistent with the temperature goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. See and

139 Pereira, ‘Reducing Catastrophic Climate Risk’.

140 See Pereira and Viola, ‘Catastrophic Climate Risk’, table 1.

141 Pereira and Viola, ‘Catastrophic Climate Risk’.

142 Dom Phillips, ‘Jair Bolsonaro Launches Assault on Amazon Rainforest Protections’, The Guardian, 2 Jan. 2019:

143 Escobar, Herton, ‘Bolsonaro's First Moves Have Brazilian Scientists Worried’, Science, 363: 6425 (2019), p. 330.

144 Jan Rocha, ‘Bolsonaro Government Reveals Plan to Develop the “Unproductive Amazon”’, Mongabay, 28 Jan. 2019:

145 Jenny Gonzales, ‘Brazil Wants to Legalize Agribusiness Leasing of Indigenous Lands’, Mongabay, 21 Feb. 2019:

146 Sue Branford and Maurício Torres, ‘Brazil to Open Indigenous Reserves to Mining without Indigenous Consent’, Mongabay, 14 March 2019:

148 Robert Muggah, Adriana Abdenur and Ilona Szabó, ‘Fighting Climate Change Means Fighting Organized Crime’, Project Syndicate, 12 March 2019:

149 ‘Brasileiros estão otimistas com governo Bolsonaro’, CNI/IBOPE survey:


Close to a Tipping Point? The Amazon and the Challenge of Sustainable Development under Growing Climate Pressures

  • Joana C. Pereira (a1) and Eduardo Viola (a2)


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