Claudia Azevedo-Ramos is Director of the Brazilian Forest Service, Ministry of Environment, Brasilia, Brazil. The region has the largest continuous tropical forest in the world and hosts around best investment for 100 000 pounds percent of the world’s plant and animal species.

The potential for an economy based on forest resources is enormous. This article gives a broad overview of past and future challenges for development in the Brazilian Amazon, as well as recent achievements. In recognition of some similarities between the Amazon basin and the popular image of the American Far West, it borrows from the title of Sergio Leone’s 1966 epic Western film The good, the bad and the ugly to observe the phases of Amazon development. However, the order is reversed to finish on an optimistic note, since much has been achieved. THE UGLY In the past three decades, land use in the Brazilian Amazon has been characterized by the intense exploitation of natural resources which has resulted in a mosaic of human-altered habitats without effectively improving quality of life and income distribution for the local population. The trees in the Amazon forests contain 60 to 80 billion tonnes of carbon, more than the global emissions generated by humans in a decade.

Almost one-third of the Amazon forest has been degraded by the use of unsustainable practices. In addition, the summed effect of deforestation, degradation, and poor harvesting and slash-and-burn agricultural practices puts millions of hectares of forests at high fire risk. Forest exploitation and conversion have not brought true development, employment opportunities, better income distribution for local populations or environmental benefits to the region. Currently, about 45 percent of the population of the Brazilian Amazon has income below the poverty line.

THE BAD Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon results from the complex interaction of many direct and indirect drivers such as mining, logging, subsidies for cattle ranching, investment in infrastructure, land tenure issues, low law enforcement and the high price of grains and meat. In recent years, however, large-scale agriculture has experienced sizeable expansion and become the newest driver of deforestation in the region. In the nine states of the Brazilian Amazon, the area under intensive mechanized agriculture grew by more than 3. Soybean can also be used for biofuel.

The Brazilian Government has declared the obligatory addition of 2 percent biofuel into petroleum diesel starting in 2008. In 2013, the proportion will increase to 8 percent, increasing biofuel consumption to 2. This policy, together with the announced interest of other countries in alternative fuels, has encouraged local producers to increase their soybean plantation area. Although the increased demand for soybean and the growth of biofuels represent excellent opportunities for Brazil, the challenge is to increase production without encouraging new deforestation. The Ministry of Agriculture states that the total area of already deforested and arable land in Brazil is more than enough to increase soybean plantations without need for further deforestation. For instance, the national production of ethanol could be doubled by using only 3.

Agribusiness has been one of the strongest forces for the implementation of new infrastructure in the region, especially roads. The current governmental infrastructure plan for the Amazon includes road paving, new hydropower projects and construction of waterways and ports. It has the potential to change drastically the social, economic and environmental situation of the Amazon. Seeking sustainable development in this particular region, civil society promoted a popular movement for participatory regional planning. State and federal governments adopted the plan, making a commitment for further actions and public policies associated with Br163. Regional planning demands synergy among public policies.

In this regard, decision-makers can benefit from predictive models, which can show, among other things, trends in the forces of deforestation depending on different political choices. For instance, based on the historical relationship between deforestation and roads in the Brazilian Amazon, Soares-Filho et al. The difference in deforestation between these two scenarios would be 1 million square kilometres. The deforestation facilitated by road pavement and low law enforcement could also dramatically increase the annual net carbon emissions from the Amazon. 15 billion tonnes of carbon under the governance scenario.

Protected areas assume an important role in forest and biodiversity conservation. The analysis of Soares-Filho et al. THE GOOD Most of the recommendations included in the governance scenario of Soares-Filho et al. The federal government now acknowledges that reducing deforestation is not exclusively the concern of the Ministry of Environment, as it was historically believed to be.

The government has established a committee involving 14 ministries to design and execute a plan for reducing Amazon deforestation. Monitoring and control of illegal deforestation have been particularly intensified. Brazil’s energy matrix is considerably cleaner than that of other developing countries. Strengthening the social, environmental and economic importance of forests, a new public forest management law was established in 2006. It stipulates that all public forests should remain public and retain their forest cover. They can be transformed into protected areas, allocated to traditional populations or sustainably used for economic purposes under forest concessions. The same law created the Brazilian Forest Service, which has the responsibility to manage and protect the public forests.