Following years of intense pressure from the agribusiness sector, Brazilian Congress late last week approved sweeping reforms to the country’s forest protection law that spell destruction for the Amazon rainforest.
Despite the indignation from Brazilian scientists, Labor and faith groups, small-scale farmers, environmentalists and the Brazilian public opinion, the congress approved dangerous changes to the country’s forest laws, at the behest of the agribusiness lobby. This new law undermines decades of progress fighting forest destruction in Brazil.
President’s veto power
After the legislation is delivered to the President, Dilma Rousseff will have 15 working days to veto this hatchet job before it becomes the law. All eyes are on her now. It is unbelievable that protections are being eroded weeks before Brazil hosts the Earth Summit in Rio.
Likely impacts of the new law
The changes to the Forest Code voted yesterday afternoon severely weaken protections for the Amazon rainforest and open up vast areas to destruction, which would contribute to carbon emissions and climate change. It leaves forest communities and Amazon wildlife even more at risk from the very interests which have already destroyed 18 percent of the Amazon. The text will also lead to further forest fragmentation that will cause more habitat loss for species in decline like the Jaguar.
A University of Brasilia study estimates a 50 percent increase in deforestation in the Amazon up to 2020 under the new rules if they pass. Brazil could lose 22 million hectares of rainforest to deforestation, that’s an area nearly the size of the state of Minnesota.
Progress made under the existing law would be rolled back, sending a green light to forest criminals. The illegal deforestation of huge areas of rainforest would be forgotten, the plunderers let off scot-free. Billions of dollars worth of fines for illegal deforestation would be written off.
Choosing hope over despair
More than 130,000 Brazilians have already signed a citizens initiative (an official petition to the government) just launched last month, for a new Zero Deforestation law to protect the forest. Brazilian football superstar Kaká and many Brazilian actors and musicians have added their names to the broad grassroots initiative.
The second leg of the Amazon tour begins now and the timing is appropriate as the ship will provide an effective tool to mobilize Brazilians to urge their government to embrace a zero deforestation vision for Brazil.