Brazil’s worst anti-environment offensive in decades is imperiling the country’s climate change commitments and putting the country’s security at risk, the non-government Climate Observatory is warning, as the government of President Michael Temer cuts back many of the safeguards that had been put in place to control losses in the Amazon rainforest.
“The country, which likes to sell itself to the world as part of the solution of the climate crisis, has become a problem again,” the organization concludes in a hard-hitting report.
A 53% drop in funding to the country’s environment ministry, part of a series of sweeping budget cuts aimed at reining in the federal deficit, will “profoundly prejudice the monitoring of deforestation, and consequently, Brazil’s climate targets,” said Executive Secretary Alfredo Sirkis of the National Climate Change Forum, a joint government-civil society body established in 2000.
The cuts hit at a time when Amazon forest clearance has increased 29% in one year, Climate News Network reports, citing preliminary data from Brazil’s National Space Research Institute. The Climate Observatory warns the cuts will only weaken the ability of the national environmental enforcement agency, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, to carry out inspections in the Amazon and other natural areas.
“While the ministry is being starved of the cash it needs to carry out its constitutional duties, the powerful landowners’ lobby in congress is pushing for a total relaxation of the environmental laws,” Climate News Net reports. “Claiming the need to speed up the present lengthy process, they want the licencing process devolved to local authorities, or even to the construction companies themselves.”
If the rural lobby got its way, “it would mean that road-building—known to be the main driver of deforestation—could go ahead with no regard for the environmental consequences,” writes correspondent Jan Rocha. “At the moment, these roads are virtually impassable during the rainy season. Once paved, thousands of lorries will use them to carry the soy harvest north to river ports for shipping to Europe and the U.S.”
By reversing decades of progress on deforestation and Indigenous land rights, Climate Observatory concludes that Brazil is at risk of making itself an “international pariah”, as it was in the 1980s.