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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.

Ministry of the Environment budget for 2021 is the lowest in 21 years

A report says that this is part of project of environmental destruction by the government

Credit: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

22 Jan 21

Ministry of the Environment budget for 2021 is the lowest in 21 years

Following the trend of cuts and low budget execution, the Ministry of the Environment (MMA), spearheaded by Ricardo Salles, presented for 2021 the smallest budget proposition of the last twenty-one years, indicates the report “Passando a boiada”, produced by the Climate Observatory (OC). The Annual Budget Bill (Ploa), which the National Congress probably will approve in March, foresees R$ 1.72 billion reais for all MMA expenses – since 2000, the authorized amount has never been less than R$ 2.9 billion reais. Another fact draws attention: after a year of record deforestation and burning rates, the ministry starts the year with a 27.4% reduction in the budget for environmental inspection and forest fire fighting.

The proposal “crowns the Bolsonaro government’s environmental dismantling strategy,” analyzes the organization, reminding that the president fulfilled his promises made in 2019. “It is a destruction project that is being carried out,” says Suely Araújo, a senior public policy specialist at the Climate Observatory.

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”.

Government gives concession to exploit natural resources at Humaitá National Forest

The gorest has three times the area of the city of São Paulo

Credit: Handout

23 Dec 20

Government gives concession to exploit natural resources at Humaitá National Forest

With the authorization of the federal government published in the Official Gazette of the Union (DOU) on December 17, companies, cooperatives and local community associations will be able to, from now on, carry out sustainable forest management and extraction of timber and non-timber products from the Humaitá National Forest (Flona Humaitá), in southern Amazonas state.

The environmental concession, signed by the Minister of Agriculture, Tereza Cristina, lasts 40 years, according to the Public Forest Management Law (2006), and was already foreseen in the Annual Forest Grant Plan of 2020, the government said. Flona Humaitá has a total area of 472,454.90 hectares, equivalent to three times the size of the city of São Paulo, and will be divided into three management units.

A few days later, the DOU published the inclusion of nine Conservation Units in the National Privatization Program (PND), with the goal of guaranteeing “the sustainable use of the economic potential” of the regions, according to the government. The measure includes the National Forest of Brasília (DF) and the national parks of Serra dos Órgãos (RJ), Ubajara (CE), Serra da Capivara (PI) and Chapada dos Guimarães (MT).

Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions rise by almost 10% in 2019

Experts associate the rise to deforestation of the Amazon and Pantanal

Credit: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

12 Nov 20

Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions rise by almost 10% in 2019

In the first year of the Bolsonaro government, Brazil registered a 9.6% increase in greenhouse gas emissions, driven by high deforestation rates. The information comes from the Climate Observatory (OC), based on the analysis of data from the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Estimation System (SEEG). In 2019, 2.17 billion gross tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) were released into the atmosphere, compared to 1.98 billion in 2018. According to the data, the rural activity was the main responsible for the increase in emissions: “Adding the emissions from land use and farming, the SEEG concludes that rural activity – either directly or indirectly, through deforestation, which is almost all directed to farming – accounted for 72% of emissions in Brazil last year,” said the organization.

The energy sector also had a significant participation in emissions registered in 2019, responsible for 19% of total emissions in the country. According to the OC, the growth comes from the high consumption of electricity and the consequent activation of gas thermoelectric plants and increased use of diesel. The increase happens in the while the government gives subsides to the production of fossil fuels, according to a recent study by the Institute of Socio-economic Studies (Inesc), published by the G1 website. There were R$ 99.4 billion in subsidies to producers and consumers of oil derivatives, coal and natural gas, an increase of 16% over 2018 and the equivalent of 1.36% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2019.

The contribution of the waste sector, although small, by being responsible for 4% of the country’s emissions – was also highlighted. “Historically the sector presents a significant growth. However, in recent years a certain stability of emissions is possible. This indicates a scenario of maintaining the current situation, without major advances in waste management and the fulfillment of sectoral climate objectives,” said Iris Coluna, of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, one of the NGOs responsible for developing the SEEG.

The 2019 emissions go against the goal of the National Policy on Climate Change (PNMC) – which officializes the country’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 36.1% and 38.9% of projected emissions by 2020 – and places Brazil in 6th place on the list of the world’s largest climate polluters, according to the organization.

VP takes ambassadors on blindsiding tour to the Amazon

NGO offered an alternative tour to diplomats, including areas more severely affected by deforestation

Credit: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

6 Nov 20

VP takes ambassadors on blindsiding tour to the Amazon

At the head of two key institutions for environmental protection, the Amazon Council and the Amazon Fund, Vice President Hamilton Mourão organized a tour of the Amazon with ambassadors, which began on October 4. Representatives from the European Union, Germany, France, Sweden, United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Canada, Peru, Colombia and South Africa participated in the visits.

As reported by El País, the trip was criticized by environmentalists for proposing a “shielded” route, concentrated on the outskirts of Manaus, capital of Amazonas State, and the city of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, ignoring the regions most affected by deforestation. As a counterpoint, the NGO Greenpeace sent the ambassadors an alternative route, including the states of Pará and Mato Grosso do Sul. “A diplomatic trip through the Brazilian Amazon that does not include in its route the challenges and serious environmental damage that the region faces, is an incomplete trip and a missed opportunity,” said the NGO.

To the DW, Heiko Thoms, German Ambassador, one of the main donor countries of the now paralyzed Amazon Fund, stated that the trip does not change the country’s impression about the Brazilian environmental crisis. In parallel to Mourão’s invitation, Thoms met with the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB) and the Sustainable Amazon Foundation.

The United Kingdom diplomat Liz Davidson shared her impressions in a series of Twitter posts. She reinforced the importance of the visit “at a crucial moment of the sustainable development agenda in Brazil and in the world”. Davidson, however, regretted “not going to the areas most affected by deforestation and not having had the opportunity to talk with organizations and social leaderships working in the region, which would have helped to conduct our dialogue in a more balanced and transparent manner”.

The visit took place amid strong international pressure against Brazil’s high deforestation rates. In early October, the European Parliament called for changes in Mercosur’s environmental policy so that the economic agreement between the blocs could be signed; in June, a group of investors sent an open letter to the Brazilian embassies in several countries expressing concern about growing deforestation rates.

Supreme Court suspends Conama decisions that deregulate environmental norms

Justice Weber had demanded explanations about the decision

Credit: Tribunal Superior Eleitoral/Public Domain

29 Oct 20

Supreme Court suspends Conama decisions that deregulate environmental norms

After political parties filed a suit the Federal Supreme Court (STF), through Appeals of Noncompliance with Fundamental Precepts (ADPFs), against the revocations made by the National Environmental Council (Conama), justice Rosa Weber, rapporteur of the lawsuit, suspended the effects of resolution 500/2020. Weber restored the Resolutions 284/2001 on environmental licensing for agricultural irrigation projects, 302/2002 and 303/2002, both referring to the protection of mangroves and restingas. “The sometimes legitimate impetus to simplify environmental law through deregulation cannot be satisfied at the price of setbacks on legal protection of assets,” said the justice.

As informed by the G1, the decision is valid until the analysis, by the STF, of the actions related to the subject.

Resolution 499/2020, which regulates the burning of solid waste in cement factories, had its request for suspension denied.

Ibama halts forest fire-fighting due to "lack of money" while resources at the Amazon Fund remain frozen

Over 1,400 environmental agents had to leave their duties

Credit: Vinícius Mendonça/Ibama/via CC BY-SA 2.0

21 Oct 20

Ibama halts forest fire-fighting due to “lack of money” while resources at the Amazon Fund remain frozen

The Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Resources (Ibama), via its Environmental Protection Directorate, ordered the withdrawal of the Forest Fire Brigades across the country starting at midnight of October 22nd. The order interrupted the work of approximately 1,4000 firefighting agents who work at the National Center for Prevention and Fight against Forest Fires (Prevfogo). In a statement, the organ justified the measure alleging “exhaustion of resources”. “Since September, the autarchy has been facing difficulties regarding financial releases by the National Treasury Secretariat”, says the text. The newspaper Estado de S. Paulo revealed that the Ministry of the Environment questioned the Ministry of Economy about the resources, but did not receive any hint that the funds would be released.

The episode is yet another escalation on the budgetary tension between the two ministries. In August, minister Ricardo Salles announced the interruption of firefighting in the Amazon and the Pantanal due to the blockade of R$ 60 million in the budget of the Ministry of the Environment, determined by the chief of staff of the Presidency and led by the Ministry of Economy. Salles retreated, but it led Vice President Hamilton Mourão, who heads the Amazon Fund, to classify MMA’s action as “hasty”.

For the National Association of Environmental Public Servants (Ascema), the withdrawal of the Forest Fire Brigades happens as “the government  squanders money by ending the Amazon Fund to now say it has no resources”. The organization refers to governance problems faced by the Amazon Fund since 2019, such as the exclusion of participation from society, among other irregularities, which culminated in Salles’s departure from the chairmanship of the committee in May 2020. Managed by the National Bank for Economic Development and Social (BNDES), the Amazon Fund raises funds for actions to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation, and to promote conservation and the sustainable use of the biome.

In this scenario, Norway, the main international donor of the fund, reaffirmed the need for a new stance by the federal government in relation to the country’s environmental policy so that operations can be resumed. In an interview with Valor Econômico, Sveinung Rotevatn, Norwegian Minister for Climate and Environment, stated that the advance of deforestation and the vulnerable situation of indigenous peoples in Brazil is of concern to Norway. “I receive letters every week asking us to ask the Brazilian authorities for concrete progress before reopening the Amazon Fund,” he said.

Deforestation alerts in the Amazon reach new high in September

It is the second deforestation peak during Bolsonaro administration in September

Credit: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

9 Oct 20

Deforestation alerts in the Amazon reach new high in September

Statistics from the Institute for Space Studies (Inpe) show that the two biggest peaks of deforestation alerts in the Legal Amazon region in September occurred under Bolsonaro administration: the first, in 2019, with alerts in an area of ​​1,454 km², and now, in 2020, in 964 km². The information on deforestation by Inpe traces back to 2015, the year in which the Inpe’s Deforestation Detection System in Real Time (Deter) began circulating the alerts. The website El País reports that, until 2018, the monthly average of alerts from the Dete/Inper system was 576 km². As of 2019, it has risen to 1,189 km².

In response to the rise in deforestation in the Amazon region in 2020, the Bolsonaro administration, through its Ministry of Defense, implemented in May the Army Operation Verde Brasil 2, led by Vice President Hamilton Mourão, to “fight and suppress environmental crimes” in the Legal Amazon region. However, deforestation continued to rise even with the allocation of R$ 418,6 million for the six-month  Verde Brasil 2 Operation, which is set to end in November.   

On October 5, piauí magazine denounced the use of the Operation Verde Brasil 2 budget for the refurbishment of Armed Forces barracks and units inside and outside the Legal Amazon. One of them was the 47th Infantry Battalion, which deployed military personnel from Coxim, Mato Grosso do Sul State, to operate in the city of Juara, Mato Grosso State. According to the publication, Verde Brasil 2’s budget “already paid for the renovation of the roofs, the painting of the walls and the replacement of coatings, floors, doors and frames” of the 47th Battalion. For doors and frames alone, it was R$ 545,000 reais. Another example is the 44th Motorized Infantry Battalion, in Cuiabá, Mato Grosso’s capital, whose renovation expenses in the barracks exceeded R$1.2 million reais.

Bernie Sanders criticizes US role in projects that endanger traditional communities in Brazil

Sanders and other US congress members pressure Brazil

Crédito: AFGE/via CC BY 2.0

7 Oct 20

Bernie Sanders criticizes US role in projects that endanger traditional communities in Brazil

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders criticized President Bolsonaro’s environmental policy for putting indigenous and the African-Brazilian quilombolas populations at risk.

In September, together with other US congress members, Sanders signed a letter stating that “under no circumstances should US taxpayers’ money be used to evict centuries-old indigenous and quilombola communities”. The group calls for an amendment to the annual budget allocated by the United States for Defense to prevent the USA government from pursuing projects in Brazil that put these populations at risk. The Congress approved the proposition in the first instance and is awaiting a resolution from the US Senate.

As a background to the claim, there is the desire by the Trump administration to use part of this budget in research and satellite launches at the Alcântara Launch Center, in Maranhão, the “Alcântara Base”, as it is called in the public debate. Environmentalists, civil society organizations and social movements criticize the project for violating the rights of indigenous and quilombolas, since it will cause the removal of thousands of families from the region and restrict sea access to local inhabitants.

Environmental offenders hold public office and run for local elections in Amazon states

Names on Ibama’s “dirty list” might gain more power in the 2020 elections

Crédito: Felipe Werneck/Ibama/via CC BY-SA 2.0

7 Oct 20

Environmental offenders hold public office and run for local elections in Amazon states

A former logging company owner, defendant in an environmental crime charge, became director of the Acre’s Institute for the Environment and Climate Analysis (Imac), the state agency responsible for “preventing and encouraging the preservation of the environment”. The State Official Gazette ratified the nomination on October 2, according to G1 news. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) denounced Adelaide de Fátima Oliveira for fraudulent misrepresentation, for making public inspection difficult on environmental issues and for acquiring lumber without a valid license. According to the complaint, in 2014, the former businesswoman instructed employees to insert false information into the control system used for issuing Forest Origin Documents (SisDOF) in an attempt to falsify the legality of the lumber she was selling. The same procedure also might have happened in 2015, in another company that she owned. Questioned by the G1 portal, Oliveira declined to comment.

In other states of the Legal Amazon region, several environmental offenders already occupy public positions, and the situation may worsen with the upcoming municipal elections in November 2020. The investigative journalism outlet Agência Pública made a study that shows that 118 candidates for mayor were fined for environmental crimes committed in the region in the last ten years. Of these, 51 are in office. Out of the 28 running for re-election, 12 are farmers, ranchers or loggers.

Among the politicians fined by Ibama, Pública found mayors of municipalities in the State of Pará who gained national attention for what became known as the “Day of Fire”, on August 10th, 2019 – Valmir Climaco (MDB), from Itaituba; Raimundo Batista Santiago (PSC), from Jacareacanga; Valdinei José Ferreira (PL) and his deputy, Maurício de Lima Santos (PL), from Trairão; Ubiraci Soares Silva (PL) and his deputy, Gelson Luiz Dill (MDB), from Novo Progresso. Publica also listed candidates for mayors and vice-mayors from states outside the Amazon who have environmental fines for crimes committed in the region. The states of Goiás, Ceará, São Paulo, Bahia, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso do Sul, Pernambuco and Paraná have 11 candidates, and six of them are running for reelection.

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.

In first US presidential debate, Biden threatens Brazil over Amazon deforestation

Biden had already criticized Bolsonaro’s environmental policies

Crédito: Gage Skidmore/via CC BY-SA 2.0

30 Sep 20

In first US presidential debate, Biden threatens Brazil over Amazon deforestation

During the first debate of the US presidential race on September 29th,  Democratic candidate Joe Biden, while addressing climate change, mentioned Brazil  and questioned the leadership role north-americans should be playing on the issue. “The Amazon forest in Brazil is being destroyed (….) I will try to make sure that countries around the world come up with US$20 billion and say (…) stop destroying the forest. If you don’t, will face significant economic consequences”, said Biden, without going into detail of what would be those consequences. 

On the following day, president Bolsonaro strongly reacted to Biden’s comments, posting on Facebook that he took it as a menace of economic sanctions against Brazil. International news wires reported that Bolsonaro wrote in Portuguese and English that he won’t accept “bribes” or “coward threats” and reaffirmed that the Brazilian government was acting against deforestation, and that “foreign interests in the Amazon” are a danger to national sovereignty. 

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.

Smoke in Manaus reflects record forest fires in Amazonas and Para states

On early September, Amazonas State registered a rise in hotspots

Crédito: Bruno Kelly/Amazônia Real/CC by SA

9 Sep 20

Smoke in Manaus reflects record forest fires in Amazonas and Para states

An extensive cloud of smoke from fires all over the Amazon rainforest covered Manaus, Amazonas State capital, in the first week of September. The rates of forest fires in the region have been breaking historical records since July. According to a report by Amazônia Real, between September 1st and 8th the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) registered 2,002 hotspots in Amazonas, 170% more than in the same period in 2019, when the state had 742. The State of Pará had a more significant increase, with 3,468 outbreaks of burning, an increase of 253% when compared to the previous year (983 outbreaks). Inpe records and other institutions detected a concentration of fires in the municipalities of Novo Progresso, São Félix do Xingu and Altamira, in Pará, and Lábrea, Apuí and Boca do Acre, in Amazonas.

Clash between government and Ministry of the Environment threatens fight against deforestation

VP Hamilton Mourão said that Salles declarations were “hasty”

Crédito: Foto: Romério Cunha/VPR/via Foto Públicas

28 Aug 20

Clash between government and Ministry of the Environment threatens fight against deforestation

The minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, announced the interruption of the fight against forest fires in the Amazon and Pantanal regions — but hours later, went back on his decision. The suspension was motivated by a government block on the ministry’s funding. The cut, due to August 31, would sum up to R$ 60 million reais — but the government also went back on the decision.

Vice president Hamilton Mourão, the president of the Amazon Council, said that Salles actions were “hasty” and guaranteed that the operation will continue. According to the newspaper “Valor Econômico”, the responsible for the budget cuts were military personnel close to president Bolsonaro. The newspaper hinted at reports that say that the situation was seen as an “indirect resignation.

In 2020, fires have already ravaged 10% of Pantanal wetland area

Firefighters try to contain the flames in the Pantanal region

Credits: Mayke Toscano/Secom-MT

20 Aug 20

In 2020, fires have already ravaged 10% of Pantanal wetland area

Between January and August 2020, forest fires have ravaged over 17,500 square kilometers of Pantanal, which sums up to 10% of the total area of the region which encompasses the world’s largest tropical wetland area, and the world’s largest flooded grasslands. 

According to an article by Deutsche Welle, there was an 211% increase in hotspots when compared to the same period in the previous year. It was also the highest rate ever recorded since the National Institute of Space Research (INPE) started monitoring fires in Pantanal, in 1998.  Monitoring reports point to human action as responsible for starting 90% of the fires. Due to a severe dry season, the fire spreads easily when in contact with dry forests and grasslands.

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.

In the first half of 2020, fires ravaged the Pantanal at unprecedented levels

Forest fires in Pantanal rose by 530% when compared to 2019

Credits: Mayke Toscano/Secom-MT/via Fotos Públicas

23 Jul 20

In the first half of 2020, fires ravaged the Pantanal at unprecedented levels

In 2020, between the months of January and June, the Pantanal biome recorded an increase of 530% in forest fires when compared to the same period in 2019. The data comes from an interactive tool from the NGO Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV) who monitors deforestation hotspots in Mato Grosso State over the yearly season when the State government prohibits fires in rural properties. The fires prohibition, usually issued around  July 15th, this year  came earlier, starting on July 1st and running until September 30th 2020.

The data, open for public consultation on the ICV website, also points out that even though the prohibition season started earlier, there was a 12% rise in fires hotspots in July when compared to the same month in the previous year.

A federal order issued by president Jair Bolsonaro and the minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles on July 16th, prohibited the use of fires in rural properties in the Pantanal and Amazonia regions. The measure was considered too late in its purposes to contain deforestation and contains a problematic article that allows burning “in areas outside of the Pantanal and Legal Amazon areas when essential to farming activities.”

Bolsonaro denies deforestation and blames indigenous and traditional communities for forest fires

The president said that “the indigenous, the native, the caboclo, the river-dweller constantly do that kind of thing”, referring to forest fires

Photo: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil/via CC

16 Jul 20

Bolsonaro denies deforestation and blames indigenous and traditional communities for forest fires

During his weekly social media broadcast, president Bolsonaro once again said that the claims about his government not protecting the environment are “unfair” and that they are part of a “commercial struggle” that aims at jeopardizing Brazil agribusiness, calling Europe an “environmental cult”. He also blamed Brazilian indigenous people and traditional communities for provoking forest fires: “indigenous people, river dwellers, native Brazilians, caboclos, they constantly do that kind of thing.” Bolsonaro used fake information to defend himself, stating that under his administration forest fires and hotspots are at an all-time low.

Deeds of embargo in environmental infractions drop by 60% in 2020

Ibama team in an inspection operation in Roraima State

Credits: Fernando Augusto/Ibama/via CC

12 Jul 20

Deeds of embargo in environmental infractions drop by 60% in 2020

The deeds of embargo issued by Ibama, Brazilian Environmental control agency to contain deforestation experienced a 60% drop during the first semester of 2020, when compared to 2019.

Deeds of embargo are a control tool with the aim of “formalizing embargoes on construction works or projects to paralyse the environmental infractions, prevent new violations, safeguard environmental recovery and guarantee due legal process”. 

According to the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, it’s the second time Brazil experiences such a drop. In 2019, there was a 40% reduction on emissions of deeds of embargo when compared to the first half of 2018. The public data is available online, but experts alert that it might not be complete. Elizabeth Eriko Uema, executive-secretary of the National Association of Environmental Public Servants (Ascema) said that there is “a gag law” in place to stop  public servants from speaking up about the problems on the environmental control and governance structures under Bolsonaro’s administration.

“The deeds of embargoes are a more effective measure than fines in terms of environmental control purposes”, said Suely Araújo, former president  of Ibama and now a spokesperson for the NGO Climate Observatory (Observatório do Clima).

Amazon’s deforestation rate in June is the highest in 5 years

Inpe: June’s 2020 deforestation equals the area of Belem, capital of Pará

Credits: Vinícius Mendonça/Ibama/via CC

10 Jul 20

Amazon’s deforestation rate in June is the highest in 5 years

Data from the National Institute of Space Research (Inpe) show that June 2020 had the highest deforestation rates of the last five years. According to the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, the deforestation was equivalent to the area of the city of Belém, capital of Pará State, and rose by 10,65% when compared to the same month in 2019. Márcio Astrini, executive-secretary of the network Climate Observatory (Observatório do Clima), said that the government tries to convey a deceptive image that it preserves the Amazon but “the numbers prove otherwise: Bolsonaro’s government is actively collaboration to the destruction of the largest tropical rainforest in the planet”. He added that “under Bolsonaro, we live the worst moment ever regarding Brazil’s environmental agenda.”

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”.

Vice-president Mourão takes over as head of Amazon Fund, removing Minister Salles

VP wants to reactivate international donations to Amazon Fund

Crédito: Romério Cunha/VPR/CC BY 2.0

28 May 20

Vice-president Mourão takes over as head of Amazon Fund, removing Minister Salles

The Brazilian vice-president, General Hamilton Mourão, removed the minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, from the presidency of the Amazon Fund (Fundo Amazônia), taking over the position for himself . Managed by the National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES), the fund has the aim of attracting donations that will prevent, monitor and fight deforestation, promoting conservation, and the sustainable use of Legal Amazon (Amazônia Legal).

Salles has a history of attacking the fund: he questioned its efficiency publicly and refuted reports about the increase of deforestation in the Amazon during its mandate. On August 19th, 2019, Germany and Norway announced they were withdrawing their donations because of concerns with the Fund’s governance. 

Trying to reactivate the flow of donations, Mourão met with ambassadors from both countries to introduce the new coordinating committee of the Amazon Fund. According to the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, the heads of the diplomatic missions pointed out that the main obstacles to returning with the donations is the negative image that Bolsonaro’s government has regarding the environmental agenda.

NGOs demand ousting of environment minister; agribusiness corporations want him to stay

Salles suggestions to deregulate environmental norms faced public protest

Credits: Handout

26 May 20

NGOs demand ousting of environment minister; agribusiness corporations want him to stay

NGOs and civil society organizations published a full-page ad at the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo and repudiated the suggestions from the environment minister, Ricardo Salles, to deregulate environmental laws and norms while the pandemic distracted the public and the press. The text, signed by Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), SOS Mata Atlântica, Socioenvironmental Institute (ISA), ClimaInfo, and the Climate Observatory asked for the firing of the minister.

Two days later , 70 agribusiness and corporate organizations, among them the National Agriculture and Stock Farming Association (CNA) and Soy Producers Associations (Aprosoja Brasil), published a response in the same space. They wrote that the “bureaucracy is destructive” and fully supported Minister Salles.

Amazon deforestation alerts rise by 63,75%  in comparison to 2019

Illegal logging at the Indigenous Land Pirititi

Crédito: Felipe Werneck/Ibama/CC BY-SA 2.0

8 May 20

Amazon deforestation alerts rise by 63,75% in comparison to 2019

Data from the National Institute of Space Research (Inpe) shows that the Amazon deforestation alerts transmitted by the System of Detection of Deforestation in Real Time (Deter) rose by 64,75% in April, compared to the same month in 2019. The Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) uses the Deter alerts to monitor and substantiate their inspections and control operations. Greenpeace said that the government “ignores” the alerts and “weakens the environmental control with the exoneration of Ibama’s personnel”. When president Bolsonaro took office, in February 2019, the Ministry of the Environment exonerated 21 from 27 regional Ibama inspectors. By the end of 2019, the number of environmental fines had dropped by 34% when compared to the previous year, the lowest record in the past 24 years.

The increase in deforestation alerts happened even though on April 7th, president Bolsonaro had issued a Law and Order Guarantee (GLO) decree that authorized sending army troops to fight forest fires in the Legal Amazon. GLO missions only occur, according to Brazil’s legislation, when “traditional public security forces resources have been exhausted” and can only be executed via presidential sanction.

Salles visits and supports illegal loggers who set fire to an Ibama truck

Tanker truck that illegal loggers burned

Crédito: Handout/via Folha de S. Paulo

19 Jul 19

Salles visits and supports illegal loggers who set fire to an Ibama truck

The Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, visited loggers in Espigão d’Oeste (RO) and made a speech “for the good people who work in this country”. The loggers in the Boa Vista do Pacarana region, which rely on illegal logging inside indigenous lands Zoró and Sete de Setembro, set fire to a tanker truck at the service of the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Resources ( Ibama) two weeks earlier.

The burning of the tank truck happened two weeks after the Federal Police arrested nine loggers and seized two trucks with logs in the Indigenous Land (TI) Sete de Setembro, next to TI Zoró, where the criminal attack took place. An Ibama team had to be removed from the region after the truck was burned. During the operation, loggers destroyed bridges and cut trees on clandestine roads to block the operation.

Bolsonaro’s son shares fake news about preservation


Crédito: Twitter

20 May 19

Bolsonaro’s son shares fake news about preservation

On May 20th, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of the president, posted on Twitter wrongful information on agriculture X forest areas in Brazil. The tweet started saying that “Brazil produces enough food to feed 5 times over its population using less than 10% of its territory for agriculture”. He then continues to say that “61% of Brazil still has the same vegetation from Adam and Eve times, while Europe has only 1%”. As a source, he printed the cover of a book called “Environmental  Psicosis”, written in 2012 by Dom  Bertrand, a descendant of  the Portuguese monarchs that colonized Brazil.  Several fact-checking websites considered the senator tweet fake news. 

Bolsonaro’s decree extinguishes environmental participatory councils

NGOs criticize measure for its unconstitutionality and ideological motivation

Crédito: Marcos Corrêa/PR/Wikimedia Commons/via CC 2.0

11 Apr 19

Bolsonaro’s decree extinguishes environmental participatory councils

Bolsonaro government has extinguished all participatory councils of the federal public administration not instituted by law, through the Decree No. 9,759 of April 11, 2019. The measure dismantled, within the Ministry of the Environment, the Brazilian Forum on Climate Change (FBMC), the National Plan for the Recovery of Native Vegetation (Planaveg) and its respective Commission (Conaveg), the National Biodiversity Commission (Conabio) and the National Forestry Commission (Conaflor).

Carlos Bocuhy, president of the Brazilian Institute of Environmental Protection (Proam), told the website O Eco that the measure “lacks motivation and justification, presenting itself in a superficial and ideological way, without showing data, numbers, and criteria for an effective assessment of the functioning of the councils.” The Instituto SocioAmbiental (ISA), also heard by the report, classified the decree as an attack against the Constitution, which stresses the need for social participation in the elaboration of public policies, and makes clear “the authoritarian vision of the government”.

Minister of the Environment freezes agreements with NGOs

The Protected Amazon Areas Program (Arpa) is menaced by the measure

Crédito: WWF/Handout

15 Jan 19

Minister of the Environment freezes agreements with NGOs

The Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, announced the suspension of his ministry’s agreements with autarchies and non-governmental organizations for 90 days. He also defined that new contracts with government conservation agencies must pass through his office.

The measure threatens several ongoing projects related to climate, environmental preservation, forest restoration and indigenous people. An example is the Arpa project, considered the largest and most successful tropical rainforest protection program in the world.

NGOs have often been a target of Bolsonaro and Ricardo Salles. An association of civil society organizations published a note criticizing the measure. “The minister adopts, without legal basis and without motivation, an extreme and generic sanctioning measure, with the potential to cause discontinuity in federal environmental management. The environment, which in theory Salles should protect, and to vulnerable populations across the country, will feel the damage“, says the document.

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