Deforestation continues at rapid rates despite global conservation efforts. Evidence suggests that governance may play a critical role in influencing deforestation, and while a number of studies have demonstrated a clear relationship between national-level governance and deforestation, much remains to be known about the relative importance of subnational governance to deforestation outcomes. With a focus on the Brazilian Amazon, this study aims to understand the relationship between governance and deforestation at the municipal level. Drawing on the World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) as a guiding conceptual framework, and incorporating the additional dimension of environmental governance, we identified a wide array of publicly available data sources related to governance indicators that we used to select relevant governance variables. We compiled a dataset of 22 municipal-level governance variables covering the 2005–2018 period for 457 municipalities in the Brazilian Amazon. Using an econometric approach, we tested the relationship between governance variables and deforestation rates in a fixed-effects panel regression analysis. We found that municipalities with increasing numbers of agricultural companies tended to have higher rates of deforestation, municipalities with an environmental fund tended to have lower rates of deforestation, and municipalities that had previously elected a female mayor tended to have lower rates of deforestation. These results add to the wider conversation on the role of local-level governance, revealing that certain governance variables may contribute to halting deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.
What’s governance got to do with it? Examining the relationship between governance and deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon