I read the an article today about how Brazil is gradually losing the fight to save the Amazon. The worlds' rainforests are a global resource -- not only are they directly important to the air we all breathe, they also harbor a huge, still untapped, reservoir of species diversity which could be of profound importance to science and future medical and pharma research. The problem is that currently there is no direct benefit to Brazil, or other rainforest nations, for the global use of their rainforest resources.
The key then is to find a way to turn rainforests into economically valuable national resources for countries that maintain them. In other words, rainforests should be to Brazil, what oil is to Saudi Arabia (or actually better, because rainforests, unlike oil, are renewable). Rainforest countries should make more money by keeping their rainforests alive and healthy, than by chopping them down.
One way to accomplish this would be what I call a "Global Rainforest Tax" (see also) that would be paid pro-rata by all nations annually, to countries that have virgin rainforests. The more virgin rainforest a country maintains, the larger share of the global Rainforest Tax they would garner each year. This would only work however if rainforest countries could net a similar amount of income per year per each acre of rainforest to what they might net logging or mining that same acre of land. This money would have to be paid directly to qualifying nations, based on rigorous annual inspections. Those countries, in order to preserve that income stream, would then establish internal public programs and private industry incentive programs to maintain their rainforests, or even regrow them. If done well, this could give rise to commercial industries in those countries that were focused on helping to maintain specific regions of the rainforests, for a proportional share of the revenues earned by their home countries.
In addition to the above idea, a more far-fetched, but still conceivable program might be to require royalty payments by commercial entities to various nations for any products developed based on research into plants or other organisms in their rainforests. So for example, if a big pharamaceutical company develops a drug based on a plant found in a particular region of rainforest, then they would have to pay a royalty to the nation in which it was found, and in turn, any commercial entity overseeing that region of rainforest in that country would get a share of the royalty revenues. Of course this would require quite a bit of administration -- including strict control over permits to conduct scientific or commercial research within various rainforests so that royalties rights could be established.