Just two years ago, forest lined most of the dirt road from this jungle town westward to the Andean foothills. As paving of the Interoceanic Highway from the Brazilian border to the Pacific coast nears completion, however, cattle pastures and gold mines have advanced in lockstep with the road graders.

Such trends pose a stern test for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (Redd), a concept aimed at allowing industrialized countries to meet greenhouse-gas emissions targets in part by funding forest protection in developing nations.

With deforestation the cause of 17% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions—more than those of the globe’s entire transport sector—Redd is expected to be a high-profile topic at the upcoming United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen. (See Centerpiece—this issue.)