When the presidents of South America’s Amazonian nations met in Colombia’s jungle town of Leticia two years ago, to discuss how to better protect the world’s largest rainforest, they signed a landmark deal that raised hopes deforestation would decline.
The Leticia Pact aimed to drive sustainable forest use and reforestation, restore degraded land, improve information sharing and the use of satellite data to monitor deforestation and wildfires, and empower women and Indigenous groups.
But since seven heads of state agreed to the plan, as Indigenous leaders looked on, its pledges have remained largely unfulfilled, with scant evidence of up-and-running forest protection and restoration efforts as a direct result of the pact, critics said.
As deforestation continues to surge in the Amazon, the plan has also failed to attract significant new funding, they said.
Julia Jacobin, a researcher at Institutor Sociambiental, a Brazilian non-profit working in the Amazon region, said what has happened since the deal was signed amounts to “nothing”, with non-profits and other organisations still the key drivers of forest protection and coordination efforts in the region.
Sandra Vilardy, an assistant professor at Colombia’s Los Andes University and head of an observatory on national parks, said agreement backers had “good intentions and Colombia has shown leadership”.
“But the pact doesn’t attack the root problems of deforestation,” she said, with illegal mining, expansion of cattle ranching and farms, and drug trafficking still widespread.
Political differences among governments, changes in national leaders, conflicting economic motivations and COVID-19-related distractions all have contributed to the pact’s failure to advance significantly, analysts said.
But the lack of action may have significant consequences both for last-ditch efforts to protect fast-vanishing nature and to stem runaway climate change, which is powering increasingly damaging wildfires, floods, droughts and storms globally.
Three months after the Leticia Pact was agreed upon by seven countries that are home to the Amazon basin – Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Guyana and Suriname – leaders created an “action plan” to implement its 52 points.
Then, nearly a year after the deal was signed, environment and foreign ministry officials of the Amazonian nations again met online.
They signed another declaration to “advance decisively” and “reaffirm” their previous commitments to Amazon protection, describing the pact as a “milestone in regional cooperation”.
Under the pact, a protocol on forest fires management in the Amazon, to improve disaster response coordination and satellite monitoring, was launched in May 2021, largely in response to wildfires across Brazil and Bolivia in 2019.
But there are few other signs of tangible progress despite the fanfare and renewed commitments, environmentalists said.
The Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) – an intergovernmental body of eight Amazon nations created in 1995 – is listed in the pact as a group designated to help coordinate work.
ACTO did not reply to requests for information about progress made on implementing the pact and the funding allocated.
Brazil’s environment ministry also did not reply to a request for comment.
Colombia’s environment ministry said there were no spokespeople available to comment on progress made in implementing the pact.