Major Changes in Brazilian Forest Law Could Undo Decades of Work Trying to Protect the Amazon
Brazilian legislators tight with agribusiness interests are looking to "drastically weaken conservation requirements of the country’s Forest Law," which would have a devastating effect on the Amazon rainforest, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reported yesterday.
Today, following submission of a parliamentary special commission report which claims the laws are holding back economic prosperity, a so-called "ruralist bloc" is expected to push for "flexibilization" of the country's key forest laws through a Special Committee on Forest Law Change.
"If the Special Committee accepts the report, it will then go to the parliament for a vote which is expected to be favourable. The president has the option of signing or vetoing any amendments, but a veto is considered unlikely in the charged atmosphere of Brazilian presidential and legislative elections," WWF says.
There was hardly any consultation with the scientific community in the preparation of this report and WWF-Brazil is strongly opposed to it since it would completely undermine important requirements for environmental and sustainable production reserves on private land. These reserves and other components of the Forest Law are a major reason why Amazon deforestation has been reduced in recent years.
Increase Productivity through Sustainable Practices, Scientists Say
Counter reports have involved the scientific community and one such report, by the respected agricultural college of the University of Sao Paulo (USP/ESALQ), found that Permanent Preservation Areas had a negligible impact of about 1.5% on agricultural production in some of Brazil’s leading coffee, grape, rice and fruit producing areas.
Scientists say that much more could be gained from increasing productivity through sustainable integration of agriculture and ranching and improved pasture management than from taking down more of the Amazon forest.
Amazon Burning Again?
If the proposed changes are made to Brazil's Forest Law, we could go back to rates of Amazon destruction we saw decades ago. WWf reports:
"If the amendments are signed into law, effective control of deforestation will pass from strong Federal legislative control to a piecemeal state by state approach. Under this scenario, a strong upsurge in deforestation is expected, raising the spectre of 'the Amazon is burning' past which became a celebrated cause internationally and helped form the basis of a structure of international environmental conventions and institutions."
Additionally, if this happens, Brazil's action plan on climate change will be nearly impossible to implement, since it relies heavily on ongoing reductions in deforestation related emissions.
Calculations by independent bodies estimate that Brazil's emissions could be several times what they've promised if these amendments to the Forest Law are passed.
Image Credit: leoffreitas via flickr/CC license