The Ministry of the Environment (MMA) instituted on July 2nd, by means of the Ordinance No. 288/20, the National Program of Payments for Environmental Services - also known as Forest + Program.

Payment for Environmental Services

Forest + Program  comes up in accordance with the Payment for Environmental Services (PSA in its acronym in Portuguese) initiative, which aims to stimulate the conservation of the so-called "environmental services", which can be understood as the set of activities for the improvement and conservation of native vegetation in all biomes, as per subsection I of the caption of article 41 of Law No. 12,651/12 (Forest Code). Those services are the ones that sustain life on  planet and benefit all society.

Article 41 of the Forest Code establishes, in this sense, the possibility for the Federal Executive Power to institute a "program to support and encourage environmental conservation," which involves the "payment or encouragement of environmental services as a retribution, whether monetary or not, for activities related to the conservation and improvement of ecosystems and that generate environmental services.”

The idea of the PSA is that the beneficiary or user of the environmental service somehow (monetarily or otherwise) give back to those who value the protection and preservation of the environment, enabling the provision of environmental servicesIt is a tool that aims to assist and stimulate proper conservation and management, valuing activities for protection and sustainable use of the environt. After all, an ecologically balanced environment is essential to life and to the proper functioning of society and the economy.

The initiative seeks to diversify current environmental policy instruments and propose the use of incentives rather than disincentives (such as sanctions, payment of taxes, etc.).

Although the fact that the PSA is already used by companies and/or individuals who seek to improve their images, or want to mitigate the impacts of their daily actions, legislation in Brazil is still not concrete in its relation . Forest + Program is the first step towards the consummation of such environmental instrument.

Forest + Program

As stipulated in Ordinance No. 288/20, Forest + Program aims to stimulate (i) the private market of payments for environmental services in areas in which native vegetation coverage are maintained; and (ii) the coordination of public policies for conservation and protection of native vegetation and climate change.

The program will be coordinated by the Forests and Sustainable Development Office of the MMA, which will seek to establish strategic partnerships with individuals or companies, governed by public or private law, family or community groups, at a national and possibly international level, with the intention to encourage the PSA for the ones who protect and preserve the environment. There will also be a stimulation to the signing of sectoral agreements, good practices, cooperation actions, etc.

Areas throughout the country will be targeted by the program, which will also encompass all Brazilian biomes. What is aimed is the maintenance of areas covered by native vegetation and the recovery of those areas that are already degraded. Brazilian territory has currently 560 million hectares of native forest.

At first, the expectation is that Forest+ will be implemented as a pilot project in the Legal Amazon region, which corresponds to 58.9% of the Brazilian territory and covers regions of the states of Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Pará, Tocantins, Rondônia, and Roraima.

In order to map the reach of the program, it is planned the record and integration of the data related to environmental services developed under the scope of Floresta +, in addition to the development of a digital tool to systematize payment for such services.

The program already has R$ 500 million in funds, received from the Green Climate Fund [Fundo Verde do Clima]. This amount may be multiplied, considering that Brazil has the greatest biodiversity heritage in the world and has the potential to become one of the world's leading players in the implementation of the PSA.

Forest + Program is currently the bigger PSA program in the world.

National Policy of Payment for Environmental Services

In 2019, the Chamber of Representatives approved the Bill of Law No. 312/15, which proposes the institution of the National Policy of Payment for Environmental Services (PNPSA). The main purpose of the PNPSA, which will be managed by  the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama), is along the  same purpose of the PSA: reward (monetarily or otherwise) those ones who implement measures related to the maintenance, recovery, or improvement the environment.

The bill of law went to the  Senate through Bill of Law No. 5,028/19 and is currently waiting to be scheduled  on the discussion agenda. The reporting senator, Fabiano Contarato, president of the Environmental Committee [Comissão de Meio Ambiente – CMA], had been conducting public hearings to support the project, which  were suspended on March 19 of the current year, due to the measures promulgated by the Senate to contain the covid-19 pandemic.

Bill of Law No. 3,791/19, also originated from the Senate, has same subject and has not been scheduled for discussions either. The reporting senator,  Acir Gurgacz, has already presented a favorable report, with an amendment of his own authorship.

The explanation for the creation of a federal legislation for this mechanism is that our legislative system is only conditioned  to punish offenders who degrade the environment, and not to benefit, in any way, the ones that act correctly. The expectation is that this new policy will bring some gains for a sustainable development with focus on the generation of jobs and income.