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Federal Police carries out an operation against illegal diamond mining in indigenous lands

The criminals sold the diamonds abroad

Credit: Polícia Federal/via Agência Brasil

16 Mar 21

Federal Police carries out an operation against illegal diamond mining in indigenous lands

On March 16, the Federal Police carried out the Operation Investor to dismantle a criminal network specialized in illegal diamond mining in the Sete de Setembro and Roosevelt Indigenous Lands, where the Suruís and the Cinta-Larga indigenous peoples live, respectively, in the municipalities of Cacoal and Espigão, in the state of Rondônia. The agents conducted Seven search and seizure warrants in the cities of Espigão do Oeste (RO), Cerejeiras (RO), Clementina (SP), Montenegro (RS), and Domingos Martins (ES).

“During the course of the investigations, the police identified the investors of the mining operation, in addition to intermediaries, miners and indigenous people involved,” the Federal Police told G1. After the illegal extraction in Rondônia, the diamonds were sold abroad.

The Roosevelt Indigenous Land, ratified in 1991, has for decades been the target of dispute between indigenous people and environmental criminals because of its privileged location for mining activities. The region is home to one of the largest diamond mines in the world, with the capacity to produce at least one million carats of precious stones per year. The advance of illegal mining has brought conflicts of various kinds to the Cinta-Larga people – including the stigma that they are a “rich” people who do not need assistance from the state – as well as great environmental impact. The legalization of the activity, with indigenous participation, divides opinions among local leaders.

Criminals are selling protected lands in the Amazon in Facebook, shows BBC

An investigation is being carried out by the Supreme Court

Credit: BBC Brasil

3 Mar 21

Criminals are selling protected lands in the Amazon in Facebook, shows BBC

A BBC story revealed that protected lands in several Amazonian states are being sold on Facebook by environmental criminals. Pieces of the forest or newly cleared areas, including inside Conservation Units and indigenous lands, are among the lots advertised in the “Sale of residential properties” section of the social network’s buying and selling space, says the article.

To confirm the veracity of the ads, the BBC team met, claiming to represent buyers, with four sellers in Rondônia, the state that leads the advertisements of this type on the social network. Among the land for sale identified in the region are areas within the Uru Eu Wau Wau Indigenous Land and the Angelim Extractive Reserve. In Amazonas, an area of 1,660 hectares (equivalent to 1,660 soccer fields) in the Aripuanã National Forest, for the sum of R$ 3.2 million reais.

The case gave rise to the documentary “Amazonia for sale: the illegal market of protected areas on Facebook”, available on the network Youtube channel, and the crimes are now under scrutiny by the Supreme Court after an order of Justice Luís Roberto Barroso.

NGO points connection between World Bank and environmental crimes in the Amazon

Soy from the state of Mato Grosso leaves the country through the Amazon Forest

Credit: Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace

2 Mar 21

NGO points connection between World Bank and environmental crimes in the Amazon

According to the Institute for Socioeconomic Studies (Inesc), a logistics company who operates in the international soybean route that cuts through the Amazon, financed by the World Bank, has not complied with measures to alleviate socio-environmental impacts of its operations on the forest and local communities.

The information is in the dossier “While the soybean passes by: impacts of the company Hidrovias do Brasil [Brazil Waterways] in Itaituba”. The company, based in the district of Miritituba, in the municipality of Itaituba, state of Pará, has among its shareholders the multilateral development bank International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s private arm.

The document presents a table with the agreed demands that are not being contemplated by Hidrovias do Brasil, such as the development and implementation of strategies to reduce atmospheric emissions and the elaboration of a solid waste management program. On the contrary, the company “spreads ‘soybean dust’, which contains residues of pesticides, cereals, soil, and vegetables, carried by the wind beyond the company’s yard”, says the text, and caused damage to the region’s marshes, compromising fishing activity.

France's largest bank will stop financing companies linked to deforestation in the Amazon

Photo of the Indigenous Land Cachoeira Seca, in Pará state, deforested by land grabbers and loggers

Credit: Daniel Beltrá/Greenpeace

15 Feb 21

France’s largest bank will stop financing companies linked to deforestation in the Amazon

BNP Paribas, the largest French bank, has announced that it will no longer finance companies that buy cattle or soy produced in the Amazon on land that was deforested after 2008. The promise also applies to grain or beef from the Brazilian Cerrado biome. The institution informed that it will only finance companies that commit to zero deforestation by 2025, according to the Reuters news agency.

The BNP’s stance is in line with the French government’s tightening siege on Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental policy, as exemplified by president Emmanuel Macron’s recent threat to discontinue the importation of Brazilian soybeans.

Petrobras takes over five oil blocks in the Amazon River bought by Total in 2013

Environmentalists fear that this will increase the pressure for licensing

Credit: @ANDREBANIWA/Twitter

10 Feb 21

Petrobras takes over five oil blocks in the Amazon River bought by Total in 2013

Previously bought by French company Total, Petrobras is now taking over five oil blocks located in the Amazon River gorge, with authorization from the National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP), as stated in the Union Official Gazette.

The company decided to take over due to the difficulty with the environmental licensing process of the blocks, located “in one of the most sensitive areas of the region and with extreme environmental wealth,” says an article in the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo. Total bought the blocks in an auction held in 2013 and never received the license for exploration. In 2018, for the fourth time, environmental agency Ibama denied the company’s request to drill in the basin. With Petrobras taking over, environmentalists fear that there will be greater pressure for the release of the blocks. 

After promise to stop funding fossil fuel, UK plans to explore oil and gas production in Brazil

Environmentalists say that country reliability might be affected

Credit: Number 10/via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

6 Feb 21

After promise to stop funding fossil fuel, UK plans to explore oil and gas production in Brazil

Host of COP 26, that will happen in November, the United Kingdom announced last year that investment in overseas oil, gas or coal export or production projects would be brought into a halt until the conference date. However, a survey by the SourceMaterial group revealed that the country, through the state-owned credit agency UK Export Finance, is considering supporting 17 fossil fuel projects that could be completed by July, including in Brazil, The Telegraph reported. “In recent years, the UK government has already used billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to fund fossil fuel projects around the world. It would make no sense to rush to hand out a few more million just before these subsidies are banned and before a major climate summit,” said John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK.

According to the article, one of the Brazilian developments that may receive support from the UK will produce over 2 million tons of CO2 per year in its construction and operation alone. The information was also echoed in the daily bulletin of the ClimaInfo portal, dedicated to climate change.


Biden receives document asking for the suspension of commercial exchange between Brazil and USA

Biden received the document through an aide

Credit: via Gage Skidmore/ via CC BY-SA 2.0

3 Feb 21

Biden receives document asking for the suspension of commercial exchange between Brazil and USA

Scholars from universities in the US, international NGOs such as Greenpeace, and Brazilian organizations such as the Indigenous Peoples Network of Brazil (Apib) delivered a 31-page dossier calling for a thorough review of the US relationship with Brazil. The document points out Donald Trump’s role in “legitimizing Bolsonaro’s authoritarian tendencies” and asks for the restriction of the purchase of lumber, meat and soy, as a response to the high deforestation rates in the country.

The document also mentions minorities, indigenous peoples, democracy, police violence and calls for a revision of the text that allows the commercial exploitation of the Alcântara Space Base in Maranhão, which threatens quilombola [Afro-brazilian traditional communities] territories.

“Anyone in Brazil or elsewhere who thinks they can promote an ambitious relationship with the U.S. while ignoring important issues like climate change, democracy and human rights, clearly has not heard Joe Biden during the campaign,” said Juan Gonzalez, Biden’s advisor who brought the dossier to the core of the government, according to BBC News Brazil.

International Biodiversity summit happens without Brazil and criticizes commodities from deforested areas

50 countries participated in the summit

Credit: Reproduction/Twitter via One Planet Summit

14 Jan 21

International Biodiversity summit happens without Brazil and criticizes commodities from deforested areas

Led by France President Emmanuel Macron, the One Planet Summit brought together, on January 11th, heads of states, entrepreneurs and representatives of NGOs to expand a global alliance dedicated to the preservation of biodiversity – without the participation of Brazil. The organization claims an invitation had been sent but the Foreign Relations Ministry says that the country was not invited- neither to the event nor to join the alliance.

The devastation of the Amazon, a target of recurrent criticism from Macron, was debated and the group took the opportunity to reinforce their intention of closing the market for traders who are unable to secure deforestation-free products. By June, Europe will have “the first law to put an end to deforestation imports,” said Pascal Canfin, president of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, according to a story by Jamil Chade for UOL.

The day after the meeting, the French president pointed his finger at the imports of Brazilian soy. “To continue depending on Brazilian soy is to endorse the deforestation of the Amazon. We are consistent with our ecological ambitions, we are fighting to produce soy in Europe!”, he said in a Twitter post. In yet another public exchange of splinters, Jair Bolsonaro responded with disdain: “For God’s sake, “Mister” Macron, ‘don’t buy soy from Brazil because then you won’t deforest the Amazon, buy soy from France. France produces 20% of what the city of Sorriso produces here in Mato Grosso [state]. You keep talking nonsense there, oh, Mister Macron, you don’t even know your country and you’re trying to tell what we need to do here in Brazil,” declared the president in his weekly live broadcast via social networks, as reported by the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo. The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply stated that Macron’s declaration denotes “complete ignorance about the cultivation process of the product imported by the French”.

Rise in oil prices inflates cost of cooking gas canisters

Price of the cylinder might reach 200 reais in 2021, says association

Credit: ubonwanu/iStock

7 Jan 21

Rise in oil prices inflates cost of cooking gas canisters

Because of the rising value of oil in the international market, the price of the cooking gas (13 kg canister) in Brazil has never been so high, declared the president of the Brazilian Association of Gas Resellers, Alexandre Borjaili, to the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo. In less than 40 days, Petrobras announced two readjustments of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG): 5%, on December 4, 2020, and the most recent, 6%, on January 6, 2021.

Borjaili foresees that the canister can cost from R$ 150 to R$ 200 in 2021 – in comparison to the R$ 75 in November 2020. The rise happened mainly after the sale of gas company Liquigás by national oil giant Petrobrás, concluded at the end of last year. “LPG is now controlled by multinationals and they totally abandoned the social principle of the 13 Kg canister”, he said. According to the state company, the increase in demand affected the price of gas 2020 – for cooking, heating and petrochemicals-, which reflected on international prices and, consequently, on Brazil.

To avoid the return to the massive use of firewood in the country – an alternative for a large part of the low-income population, which has no way of keeping up with the rise in the price of cooking gas – the businessman said he’s trying to bring to Brazil a “clean” stove, developed by the United Nations (UN), powered by ethanol.

Heavy usage of agrochemicals in soy plantations contaminates Brazil wine country

Contamination might jeopardize production in Rio Grande do Sul State

Credit: Michelle Rodrigues/Seapdr

17 Dec 20

Heavy usage of agrochemicals in soy plantations contaminates Brazil wine country

Agrochemicals that have 2.4-D (dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) in their composition, used for weed control in soybean plantations, have caused serious damage to rural producers of various crops in the region of Campanha, Rio Grande do Sul State, especially among wine growers.

In an interview with the newspaper Brasil de Fato, Valter Potter, president of local wine producers association, reported that they have observed the effects of the contamination over time, but the impacts have worsened in the last three years. In 2020, a laboratory analysis conducted by the Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM) on leaves and other affected materials identified 2.4-D in 87% of the samples, which corresponds to the loss of 1 million liters of wine, just among the members of the association, estimates Potter. The effects were harsher among small and medium producers.

When sprayed, the herbicide can spread for up to 30 kilometers, which makes it difficult to identify its origin and possible claims for compensation. The producers who ask for the suspension of the use of dichlorophenoxyacetic acid in Rio Grande do Sul. After several attempts at dialogue with the municipality and the State, two associations of wine farmers filed a public civil lawsuit against the state to prevent even greater financial losses.

New NGO report links beef industry giants to illegal Amazon deforestation

A farm in São Félix do Xingu, Pará State, that participated in the “Day of The Fire” and supplies JBS and Marfrig

Credit: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

3 Dec 20

New NGO report links beef industry giants to illegal Amazon deforestation

A Global Witness survey shows that three Brazilian beef giants – JBS, Marfrig and Minerva – have their production chains marked by illegal deforestation in the Amazon. The study shows that between 2017 and 2019, in Pará State, the companies bought cattle from 379 farms that illegally deforested an area of 202 square kilometers, equivalent to 20,000 soccer fields. The trail of destruction is even greater when considering the over 4,000 suppliers of these farms, the “indirect suppliers” linked to the productive chains of the companies, responsible for an estimated total of 140,000 deforested soccer fields.

The report also questions the veracity of the audits carried out by international companies DNV-GL and Grant Thornton, which claimed “several times” that JBS, Marfrig and Minerva were fulfilling their social and environmental commitments. Also, major international banks such as Santander, Deutsche Bank and HSBC are cited in the document as accomplices to the deforestation, since they continue financing the companies.

The farmers are direct accomplices of the destruction of the Amazon, the slaughterhouses are failing to remove the deforestation from their productive chains of the cattle that they buy from these cattle ranchers, the auditors have restrictions to perform their audits, which means that the audits are not detecting the cases that we identified, The banks, on the other hand, are not asking enough questions of the meat factories and, at the same time, are not forced by their governments to make a strict control to remove deforestation from their investments,” summarized Chris Moye, senior Amazon researcher at Global Witness, in an interview for BBC Brazil

EU Parliament members criticize proposal to control NGOs in the Amazon in letter to Brazil's VP

VP denies knowing about decree to curb civil society action

Credit: Isac Nóbrega/PR/via CC BY 2.0

27 Nov 20

EU Parliament members criticize proposal to control NGOs in the Amazon in letter to Brazil’s VP

“While the Amazon is burning at record speed, limiting the operations of environmental and social groups and organizations can have devastating consequences,” says the letter sent by European Parliament members to Vice President Hamilton Mourão and to the Amazon Council, spearheaded by the VP, as reported by the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo. The criticism was motivated by the information, publicized by the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo weeks before, that the Amazonian Council plans, through a new regulatory framework, to have total control over the actions of non-governmental organizations in the Amazon until 2022.

Among the signatories is Anna Cavazzini, vice-president of the European Parliament delegation for relations with Brazil. The criticism voices the European Union’s concern about the devastation of the forest, which could halt the trade agreement with Mercosur, signed in 2019.

The document defends cooperation between government and organized civil society and reiterates the positive aspects of NGOs’ actions for Brazilian environmental policy: “NGOs are not there to replace the government, but to complement its actions – and, crucially, to help make public policies more transparent and effective through free criticism”.

However, “free criticism” of Brazilian environmental policy has been a target of attacks by the federal government. In another attempt to curtail it, the Minister of the Environment Ricardo Salles has filed four judicial interpellations, through the Federal Attorney General’s Office (AGU), against his critics – the targets are Márcio Astrini, coordinator of the Climate Observatory, journalists André Borges (O Estado de S. Paulo) and Cedê Silva (O Antagonista), as well as the scientist Antonio Donato Nobre, researcher of the Earth System Science Center of the National Institute of Space Research (Inpe). 

Amazon Illegal logging: Bolsonaro threatens international buyers whilst ignoring Brazil’s responsibility

Government officials met convicted criminal loggers

Credit: Fernando Augusto/Ibama/via CC BY-SA 2.0

26 Nov 20

Amazon Illegal logging: Bolsonaro threatens international buyers whilst ignoring Brazil’s responsibility

On November 17, during his official speech at the BRICS summit, President Bolsonaro said he would reveal which countries are buying illegal lumber from the Amazon. The move was seen as a response to international pressure that Brazil has suffered as a result of record deforestation rates in 2020. “We will reveal in the coming days the names of the countries that import this illegal wood from us through the immensity that is the Amazon region” declared the president at the meeting of the group, formed by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The speech echoed in the press over the following weeks and civil society organizations stressed the responsibility of the Brazilian government in the  international illegal timber trade – “If Bolsonaro knows who buys illegal timber, he must know who sells it. What we also want to know is when he will reverse his own actions, which benefit the exportation of illegal wood,” Greenpeace Brazil published in a posting on social networks. In an interview with Deutche Welle, Dinaman Tuxá, lawyer and executive coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil Network (Apib), stated that the president’s speech has as background an environmental policy complicit with the problem. “In fact, he threatens to release a list of countries that buy illegal timber from Brazil because he is being pressured by great powers to change their environmental policy. So he is trying, in some way, to embarrass these consumer countries. But it’s totally contradictory, because at the same time he’s trying to expose a situation, he also makes it more flexible and encourages, in a certain way, the increase in illegal logging. The government is in favor of cutting the wood, he is in favor of increasing this market and now he is trying to create a political incident because he is being pressured in the international field,” said Tuxá.

In the following week, a report in the newspaper O Globo revealed that on February 6, the president of the environmental control agency Ibama, Eduardo Fortunato Bim, met with an entourage of businessmen from the lumber sector in Pará State at the headquarters of the Ministry of Environment. Nineteen days after the meeting, Bim signed a dispatch releasing the export of native wood without authorization from the agency, which facilitates the commercialization of illegally extracted wood. According to the newspaper, two of the lumber companies that attended the meeting received more than R$ 2.6 million in environmental fines.

EU asks for changes in Mercosur environmental policies to ratify trade agreement

Brasil was mentioned as an example of bad policies

Credit: Jorisvo/iStock

7 Oct 20

EU asks for changes in Mercosur environmental policies to ratify trade agreement

The European Parliament approved an amendment in a report about the application of the continent’s trade agreement reinforcing the need for changes in the environmental policies of the Mercosur countries – in particular, Brazil – in order for the treaty with the European Union to materialize.

The first version of the report, proposed by French deputies, named Bolsonaro’s policies. Although his name was deleted in the final report,  the text reflects the growing tension  between France and Brazil around the environmental agenda. The group of parliamentarians expressed “ deep concern about the environmental policy of Jair Bolsonaro, which is incompatible with the commitments made under the Paris Agreement, namely to fight global warming and protect biodiversity”, according to newspaper Valor Econômico. In its analysis, the newspaper said that although the amendment has no veto power, in practical terms, “the need for additional guarantees by the Bolsonaro government in the environmental area will be essential for Europeans to move to ratify or not the bi-regional agreement.“ In September, Vice President Hamilton Mourão received a letter signed by ambassadors from eight European countries – Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Belgium – that criticizes the government’s environmental policy and signals the departure of investors and companies from Brazil in response to the environmental crisis.

Farms involved in criminal “Day of the Fire” sell meat to JBS and Marfrig, says Greenpeace

São José Farm in São Félix do Xingu (PA), one of the properties responsible for the “Day of the Fire” supply cattle to both agro-giants

Crédito: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

5 Oct 20

Farms involved in criminal “Day of the Fire” sell meat to JBS and Marfrig, says Greenpeace

A Greenpeace report released on the one-year anniversary of the event known as “Day of Fire”, when a coordinated action by farmers caused a 1,923% increase in forest fires in Amazon’s Pará State, showed that forest fires-causing properties are part of the supply chain of Marfrig and JBS, Brazilian multinationals and the two largest meat producers in the world. Greenpeace also found connections between properties that provide cattle to the companies with slave labor. The document points out the São José farm, in the municipality of São Félix do Xingu, Bacuri and Santa Rosa farms, both in Altamira. The latter two supplied indirectly to slaughterhouses — meaning that they sell to properties that pass produce on to the sector’s giants. JBS informed that São José is no longer part of its distribution chain. The report also points out that only 5.7% of the 478 properties with active fire on Fire Day received fines. 

Meanwhile, international pressure grows. Parknshop, Hong Kong’s largest supermarket chain, said it would no longer buy meat from JBS. In the United Kingdom, a public consultation may pass a new legislation that increases the severity of regulation to products that come from areas of deforestation. 23 food giants – like McDonald’s, Mondeléz and Nestlé – wrote a letter to the government calling for greater control over the entry of produce from deforested areas. The British company M&S also announced, in late September, that it will no longer use soy in any of its products to combat deforestation in Brazil.

New campaign to curb illegal gold mining and trade

Market demand drives illegal gold mining in the Amazon

Credit: Daniel Beltrá/Greenpeace

4 Oct 20

New campaign to curb illegal gold mining and trade

In October, Instituto Escolhas launched the campaign “Where does gold come from?” to pressure global market regulation and oversight in the face of increased demand for safer assets such as gold amid the financial crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The initiative states that the gold boom in the international market stimulates the advance of illegal mining in the Brazilian Amazon, reaching Conservation Units (UCs) and Indigenous Lands (TIs), thus  increasing the exposure of communities to the virus. Due to current lack of regulation, financial institutions trade gold extracted illegally on a regular basis. According to the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, Brazilian gold exports grew 30.5% from January to August and 2020, compared to the period in the previous year. To curb the purchase of illegal gold, the campaign will forward a proposal for regulation – in public consultation until November 3rd – to the Central Bank and the Securities and Exchange Commission (CNV), which regulates the capital market in Brazil.

Under pressure from investors, JBS tries to unlink itself from deforestation

São José Farm, in Pará State, supplier of cattle to JBS, had hotspots during the “Day of the Fire”, on August, 2019

Crédito: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

23 Sep 20

Under pressure from investors, JBS tries to unlink itself from deforestation

The record increase in fires and deforestation rates is reducing Brazil’s attractiveness for foreign investors. According to the newspaper O Globo, in the first eight months of 2020, more than US$15 billion in capitals left the country, the highest volume since 1982. Analysts and managers believe that the environmental crisis may worsen this situation. In an audience at the Supreme Federal Court (STF) on climate change on the 22nd, the former president of the Central Bank, Armínio Fraga, spoke about the worsening of Brazil’s image abroad: “Deforestation and other environmental crimes, in addition to aggravating the global problem, bring enormous risk to the agribusiness ecosystem, our most successful sector, and also to the energy supply in our country “.

Sensing the pressure, on the 23rd, JBS, the largest animal protein producer in the world, launched a plan to “increase the siege on the beef supply chain (…) to ensure that the meat that reaches the consumer does not contribute to the overthrow of the Amazon: the suppliers of their suppliers“. The so-called “Green Platform JBS” intends to use blockchain technology to process data from all farms, whether owned by direct or indirect suppliers to verify compliance with social-environmental legislation. JBS (owner of the Friboi and Seara brands) also announced the creation of a fund with an initial value of R$ 250 million to finance conservation and economic development actions in the region.

JBS ‘“Green Platform” plans to have full control of direct and indirect cattle suppliers by 2025. Environmentalists recognized the importance of the plan but criticized the five-year deadline to clean up the production chain and questioned the company’s ability to carry out such measures without support from the government.

Nordic investment funds Nordea Asset and KLP, which have already banned JBS from their portfolios, also consider that the proposal presented by the company has a term “too long to be satisfactory”. With R$ 3.4 trillion of assets in its portfolio, the Finnish Nordea Asset banned JBS from its portfolio in July, after a joint press investigation revealed that the slaughterhouse bought cattle raised in an area of ​​deforestation in the Amazon.

An investigation by the NGO Repórter Brasil, disclosed on the eve of the announcement by the agribusiness giant, reaffirmed the problems in the JBS production chain. Part of the fire that devastated Mato Grosso’s Pantanal originated from ranchers’ farms that sell cattle to the Amaggi and Bom Futuro groups, which supply not only to JBS but also to other multinationals like Marfrig and Minerva. The survey was based on a study by the NGO Instituto Centro e Vida, which identified the origin of the fires in five properties in Mato Grosso, analyzing fire hotspots between July 1 and August 17, 2020.

Brazilian environmental crisis puts EU-Mercosur agreement under threat

Tensão em torno do acordo já estava presente na última reunião do G20, em 2019.

Crédito: Marcos Corrêa/PR/Via Agência Brasil

18 Sep 20

Brazilian environmental crisis puts EU-Mercosur agreement under threat

The rumours that European countries would block the EU-Mercosur trade agreement due to the Brazilian environmental crisis were getting steam among european diplomats in June 2020 according to reports from El País. By late August, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had “considerable doubts”  about her support for the agreement because of the rise in Amazon deforestation. 

In September, while Brazil broke new records on forest fires and deforestation rates, the trade agreement was once again threatened, and pressure from corporations and investment funds over the Brazilian government also increased.

On the 09th, an international team of researchers from universities of Oxford (UK), Louvain (Belgium) and Columbia (USA) published a critical analysis of the EU-Mercosur agreement saying that the text of the deal does not secure mechanisms for transparency, sanction and inclusion of local communities, going against environmental regulations from the European Union. The study indicates that the agreement fails to guarantee sustainable chains of production. In that same week, the International Trade Commission from the European Parliament issued a motion demanding more protection rules on the block trade agreements, in yet another sign of the obstacles to ratifying the treaty. 

A week later, on September 15th, two significant open letters tried to exert pressure on the Brazilian government. VP Hamilton Mourao received a document signed by ambassadors from 8 European nations — Germany, UK, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Belgium — with a clear message: “Brazil is making it harder and harder for corporations and investors to comply with their environmental, social and governance criteria”. The countries who sent the letter take part in the Amsterdam Declaration, a partnership among nations to promote sustainable chains of production that prevent forest destruction.

In the other letter, a coalition formed by 230 organizations and companies linked to agribusiness and environment published a set of six proposals to stop Amazon deforestation. The document was sent to president Bolsonaro, VP Mourão, Federal Ministers, leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives, and embassies and members of the European Parliament. “Not only because of the social-environmental losses, but also because of the threats that forest destruction poses to the national economy. There is a clear and growing concern about deforestation from several sectors of national and international society”,  states the letter signed by the Coalition, which includes NGOs such as WWF and agribusiness companies such as JBS, Marfrig, Basf and Bayer. 

Meanwhile, in France, over 20 civil society organizations issued a statement on the 16th demanding the “final burial” of the EU-Mercosur treaty because of the “disastrous impacts” on forests, climate and human rights. The NGOs manifest came out on the eve of a technical report commissioned by the French government on the effects of the commercial agreement. 

On the 18th,  the French government report was published.  According to reports on the 184 page-study by independent experts on economy and the environment, it concludes that “the agreement is a missed opportunity by the EU to use its negotiation power to obtain solid safeguards that respond to the environmental, sanitary and social expectations of its citizens”. The experts estimate that deforestation in Mercosur countries could accelerate by 5% per year due to higher demand for beef in the EU,  increasing greenhouse gas emissions and questioning whether the relative financial gains of the agreement could compensate for the climate damage it would generate. 

Upon the release of the study, president Emmanuel Macron’s government confirmed it will maintain opposition to the treaty as it stands, a position they have been sustaining since 2019, and that it is willing to renegotiate the terms of the accord to secure the Paris Agreement climate objectives.

Under pressure by investors, Ministry of the Environment announces new structure

Servants see “systematic dismantling” of the the Ministry under Salles

Credits: José Cruz/Agência Brasil

12 Aug 20

Under pressure by investors, Ministry of the Environment announces new structure

The Ministry of the Environment (MMA) has announced its new structure, effectively starting September 21st. Minister Ricardo Salles announced that the reorganization of the ministry “will answer import demands” that are “now priorities”. The changes, however, were credited to the pressure by international investors and environmental organizations.

Salles announced the recreation of a secretary to handle climate change. The government abolished the previous secretary in 2019. He also announced the Secretary for Amazon and Environmental Services that will work to attract resources via the carbon credit market. The new Secretary of Preserved Areas will try to gather sponsors, corporate and individual, to parks and federal Conservation Units (UC)

In a joint statement, the National Association of Environmental Public Servants (Ascema Nacional) and the Association of the Ministry of the Environment Workers (ASSEMMA) questioned the effectiveness of the measures and denounced the systematic destruction of the ministry under Salles. “[president Bolsonaro] announced the extinction of MMA in October 2018. They didn’t formally dismantle the ministry, but it’s happening, step by step, with all the measures Salles is implementing. The public servants are watching, bamboozled, to the deconstruction”, stated the note.

Brazil’s VP says that the country is “late” to fight Amazon’ deforestation

Vice President Mourão criticizes MMA’s survey systems

Credits: Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil

10 Jul 20

Brazil’s VP says that the country is “late” to fight Amazon’ deforestation

After a meeting with CEOs from several large Brazilian corporations, Brazil’s vice president Hamilton Mourão declared to the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo that the government actions to fight deforestation and forest fires in the Amazon were “late”.

He recalled the Amazon Council, presided by him, which the government launched in February. He stated the actions “should have started in December or January, at the latest”. NGOs and environmentalists have been criticizing the council for its lack of a clear agenda or budget.

VP Mourão also blamed the coronavirus pandemic for lack of investments in land use monitoring systems. However,  the National Institute of Space Research (Inpe) keeps raising deforestation alerts that the government chooses to ignore”, according to the NGO Greenpeace. Ibama, the Brazilian Environmental Agency,  uses Inpe’s alerts to fight forest fires and other environmental crimes. During April 2020, the alerts by the System of Deforestation Detection in Real Time (Deter) rose by 64% when compared to the same month in 2019.

The government’s budget for the Ministry of the Environment suffered a 10% cut from 2019 to 2020, affecting the prevention and control of forest fires. 

An analysis published in December 2019 had already shown that the Ministry of the Environment did not spend a cent of the authorized R$ 8 million budget from the National Fund on Climate Change, destined to produce studies, projects and enterprises to mitigate and adapt to climate change. 

Ricardo Salles, the minister of the environment, also attended the meeting to speak about carbon credits defined by the Paris Agreement. 

International investors write open letter to Brazilian embassies with concerns about environmental policies

Document mentions Salles speech about deregulating environmental norms

Crédito: Eduardo Frederiksen/iStock

23 Jun 20

International investors write open letter to Brazilian embassies with concerns about environmental policies

An international business and investment group, controlling R$ 20 trillion of funds, wrote an open letter to Brazilian embassies in the United States, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, United Kingdom, France and Netherlands. The document expresses concern over deforestation rates in Brazil and the behaviour of the minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles. The letter quotes minister Salles leaked remarks at a cabinet meeting in April, when he said that the government should take advantage of the public attention to the pandemic to deregulate environmental laws.

According to the website G1, the investors group wants to contribute with the conciliation between the economic development and environment conservation. They ask the Brazilian government to “show firm commitment with eliminating deforestation and protecting indigenous people’s rights”.

Davos: investors react to environmental policies and worry Minister of Economy

Paulo Guedes during session in the 2020 World Economic Forum

Crédito: World Economic Forum/Ciaran McCrickard/via Fotos Públicas

17 Feb 20

Davos: investors react to environmental policies and worry Minister of Economy

Upon coming back from the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, Paulo Guedes, the minister of Economy, voiced concerns about  the Minister of Environment, Ricardo Salles, according to the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo. The news article says that one of the main alleged reasons from investors that are holding back their capitals from Brazil are concerns and doubts regarding the Brazilian government’s environmental policies.

“Take a shit every other day”

Journalists had asked bolsonaro about sustainable development

Crédito: Jornal da Globo/Reprodução

9 Aug 19

“Take a shit every other day”

In a meeting with reporters when leaving the presidential palace in Brasilia, president Bolsonaro created  (another) social media frenzy with an unexpected and coarse answer to a question about the economy and the environment. A journalist asked: “President, is it possible to grow with environmental preservation? How?”, to what Bolsonaro replied: “Yes, of course. You only have to eat a little less. When you talk about environmental pollution, all you have to do is to only take a shit every other day. This will improve our lives a lot, all right?”.

World’s most sustainable meat?

Salles and Tereza Cristina, Agriculture minister, in a barbecue at the german embassy

Crédito: Twitter

9 Jul 19

World’s most sustainable meat?

Minister Salles tweeted a picture of him and the Minister of Agriculture attending a barbecue at the German Embassy in Brasilia and called Brazilian meat “the most sustainable  in the world”.

Macron holds approval of EU-Mercosul treaty

França quer que Brasil reconheça Acordo de Paris

Crédito: World Economic Forum/Sikarin Thanachaiary/via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

2 Jul 19

Macron holds approval of EU-Mercosul treaty

After generally  accepting the terms for the EU-Mercosul trade agreement, the French government warned that it will still be a long process until the national Parliament ratifies the treaty. At the G20 summit In Osaka, president Macron said that their demands had been included  in the document – such as  explicit recognition from Brazil of the Paris Agreement, respect to environmental norms and regulations and safeguards to French farmers. However, speaking directly about Bolsonaro, French officials and deputies  made clear that the agreement will only come to life if the Brazilian government lives up to the commitments.

Merkel wants to talk to Bolsonaro about preservation

Chancellor said that the human rights situation in Brazil is “dramatic”

Crédito: Russian Presidential Executive Office/Wikimedia Commons/via CC BY 4.0

26 Jun 19

Merkel wants to talk to Bolsonaro about preservation

On the eve of the G20, German chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to the German Parliament and said that she hoped to have an opportunity to talk directly to president Bolsonaro about deforestation in Brazil at the summit in Osaka. Calling the human rights situation in Brazil “dramatic”, Merkel’s address was seen as a response to the NGO letter sent in the previous week questioning the Mercosul – European Union trade agreement and demanding stronger measures to curb deforestation and to implement the Paris Agreement. 

340 international organizations sign open letter against Mercosul-EU treaty

Organizations expressed rejection to Bolsonaro’s policies

Marcos Corrêa/PR/via CC BY 2.0

19 Jun 19

340 international organizations sign open letter against Mercosul-EU treaty

More than 340 international organizations signed an open letter asking the European Union to immediately halt trade negotiations with Brazil. The request came amid talks to a free-trade agreement between the Mercosul and the European Union – which has been in the making for over two decades. Addressed to the presidents of the European Commission, Council and  Parliament, the document states  that “since the beginning of Bolsonaro’s government…we have been witnessing the increase of human rights violations, attacks against  minorities, indigenous populations, traditional communities and  LGBTQ people”. Other demands listed on the letter were guarantees that Brazilian products imported into Europe were not involved with deforestation, land grabbing and human rights violations; stronger commitment from Brazil towards implementing the Paris Agreement; supporting Brazilian NGOs that defend democracy  and human rights,  monitoring human rights violations and providing investigation and support to people under threat. 

Nordic supermarket chain announces boycott against Brazilian produce

A Paradiset store

Crédito: Handout

5 Jun 19

Nordic supermarket chain announces boycott against Brazilian produce

A Nordic supermarket chain announced a broad boycott against Brazilian produce due environmental and health harms associated with the record release of new highly toxic agrochemicals in the country. Of the 197 agrochemicals released by the Minister of the Environment in 2019, 26% are not allowed by European Union standards. “We need to stop Bolsonaro, he is a maniac,” said Paradiset supermarket’s president to a news wire agency.

Bolsonaro at Davos

Bolsonaro: “[Brazil] is the country who protects the environment the most”

Crédito: Alan Santos/PR/via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

22 Jan 19

Bolsonaro at Davos

During a brief speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, President Jair Bolsonaro prompted fresh alarm among environmentalists after stressing that protecting his country’s unique ecosystem has to be consistent with economic growth. “Agriculture makes up no more than 9% of our territory and has grown thanks to technology and the hard work of farmers,” he said. “No other country in the world has as many forests as we do.”

 Without addressing the risks that a go-for-growth strategy would pose to the Amazon region, Bolsonaro used his first overseas trip since taking office to outline a strong pro-business agenda. He also claimed that Brazil is the country that protects the environment the most.

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