Rio de Janeiro-A year ago, as the fire swept through the Amazon, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was outraged by foreign criticism: “The Amazon is ours,” he said. The fate of the rainforest is his Determined by the country.
Many changes have taken place during the year.
Under pressure from European governments, foreign investors and Brazilian companies concerned about the country’s reputation, Mr. Bolsonaro banned forest fires during the dry season for four months and launched military operations against deforestation.
Environmentalists, experts, and foreign officials who have pressured Brazil on protection issues are skeptical of the government’s commitments. They worry that these measures are tantamount to undermining control when the economy is in serious trouble.
Mr. Bolsonaro and many of his political allies have long preferred to open the Amazon to miners, farmers, and loggers, and his government has publicly committed to destroying the land rights of indigenous communities. During his tenure, deforestation surged.
However, as the political and commercial costs of policies that prioritize exploration over nature conservation continue to rise, some activists see opportunities to slow or even reverse this trend by promoting private sector support for green policies.
“Brazil is becoming an environmental pioneer on the global stage, destroying the good reputation that has been established for decades,” said Sueley Araújo, a senior environmental policy expert who was fired as the country’s main environmental protection agency shortly after Mr. Bolsonaro The person in charge takes office.
The deterioration of Brazil’s environmental reputation has also jeopardized two important foreign policy goals: the implementation of a trade agreement with the European Union and its ambition to join the 37-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Both transactions require Brazil to meet benchmark standards for labor and environmental policies.
There was a significant economic loss in late June, when more than two dozen financial institutions collectively controlled approximately US$3.7 billion in assets. In a letter warning the Brazilian government, investors were moving away from the rapidly deteriorating national ecosystem .
The investor wrote: “We recognize the critical role that tropical forests play in combating climate change, protecting biodiversity and ensuring ecosystem services.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Nordea Asset Management, a major European investment company, announced this week that it has withdrawn from its Brazilian meat giant JBS SA due to its role in deforestation and other issues. JBS is one of the world’s leading meat suppliers and has been criticized for failing to exclude meat from cattle grazing in protected areas into its supply chain.
Sveinung Rotevatn, Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, stated that Brazil used to control deforestation by protecting indigenous communities, protecting natural forests and actively enforcing laws.
He said in an email: “Brazil is the world leader in drastically reducing deforestation and has shown the world that they can greatly increase agricultural production at the same time.” “They can do it again.”
The news has been clearly registered in Brazil. The country’s three major banks announced a joint effort this week to promote and fund Amazon’s sustainable development projects.
A group of former Brazilian finance ministers and central bank governors pointed out in a joint statement earlier this month that the best way to start the economy is to invest in greener technologies, end fuel subsidies and drastically reduce deforestation rates.
But the most obvious sign of a political shift on this issue is the fate of Bolsonaro Environment Minister Ricardo Sals, who criticized the increasing deforestation in Brazil while fighting for his political survival.
Mr. Sals is the face of Bolsonaro’s government’s efforts to weaken environmental protection. He was expelled from the party in May due to the leadership of his ministry. He also faces a legal complaint from federal prosecutors seeking to be removed, alleging that Mr. Salles’ behavior during his tenure constituted negligence.
Brazilian leaders often feel uneasy in the foreign-led campaign to save the rainforest, believing that such efforts are a despicable way to hinder the economic potential of this huge country, which is a major exporter of food and other commodities.
In July last year, Mr. Bolsonaro said at an international reporters roundtable that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon region is only related to Brazil. He said: “Amazon is ours.”
Next month, in early August, Mr. Bolsonaro fired the head of the government agency responsible for tracking deforestation trends, and Mr. Salles expressed doubts about his own government’s data, which showed a marked increase in forest destruction.
Later that month, as the photos and videos of Amazon’s unusually hot season spread rapidly, world leaders, celebrities and people on social media were shocked. Such fires deliberately occurred in July and August to clear the land to graze cattle and grow crops, but last year there were a few unusually dry and raging fires.
After the European leader drew attention to the fire by declaring that “our house is burning,” Mr. Bolsonaro maintained close contact with French President Emmanuel Macron. Literally. “
Experts say that since the government has hindered the development of its environmental protection agencies, deforestation has continued to intensify, allowing illegal miners and loggers to penetrate the Amazon River with impunity.
According to data from the National Institute of Space Research of Brazil, in the first six months of this year, loggers leveled approximately 1,184 square miles of the Amazon. This area is slightly smaller than Rhode Island, and it is 25% less than the forest cover in the same period in 2019.
Environmental experts say that military operations to curb deforestation (including more than 3,600 troops and law enforcement personnel) will reduce deforestation and fires at most this year. They said that to fundamentally reverse this situation, the government will need to carry out thorough reforms to strengthen the staffing, tools and political support of environmental protection agencies.
The Association of Government Environmental Officers and the Association of Federal Prosecutors said that Mr. Sals was the main reason for the increase in deforestation during Bolsonaro’s administration.
Another statement they recently issued on his watch asserted that professional experts had lost their tools and autonomy. Professional law enforcement officers, mainly targeting environmental agencies, were demoted or fired after a political backlash against land invaders earlier this year.
After the release of a video of a cabinet meeting, criticism of Sals reached a boiling point in May. In this video, he said that the coronavirus pandemic has caused an opportunity for distraction, which has led to progress in environmental deregulation without causing extensive media scrutiny.
In a 126-page complaint filed in early July, federal prosecutors accused Mr. Salles of spending money inefficiently, retaliating against effective law enforcement officials, and imposing the fewest fines for environmental crimes in 20 years, even with the number of people who invaded protected areas So is the surge.
The federal prosecutor wrote in the complaint: “The breach of the Brazilian environmental protection system is the result of the defendant’s actions, omissions and statements.” The lawsuit aims to prevent Mr. Sals from holding public office.
Mr. Sals did not respond to an interview request. He claimed that the allegations were baseless and that the accused prosecutor interfered with the policy of the administration.
Mr. Bolsonaro’s office forwarded a request for comment to the office of Vice President Hamilton Mourão, who also did not respond.
Mourão, a former army general and head of the government’s recent military deployment to the Amazon, said that this effort is a sign of the government’s commitment to reducing deforestation and other environmental crimes.
In a speech to a public radio station earlier this month, Mulang said: “Relax, law enforcement is still going on. It has achieved good results.”