point of view

The two-faced Brazil at COP23

Center For International Forestry Research Kate Evans, Brazil, Brasil, COP23

A Paper presented by environmentalists in Bonn points out ways to eliminate deforestation in the Amazon

Today (14), the report “A Pathway to Zero Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon” was presented at COP23. Created by eight environmental NGOs, the text indicates ways to eliminate deforestation in the Amazon in the short term, with environmental, economic and social benefits for all. According to the report, there is no longer any justification for the destruction of native vegetation in Brazil. Continuing deforestation results in an imbalance of the climate, destroys biodiversity and water resources, damages human health and, contrary to what many believe, compromises the competitiveness of agricultural production.

The problem is that Brazil is two-faced: One that portrays a country which is concerned with the preservation of the environment, with the rights of traditional peoples and with sustainable development. In practice, however, the Government has systematically promoted setbacks in these areas, even damaging the Brazilian Constitution.

The “advance of the agricultural frontier”, one of the arguments for the various environmental setbacks that we have been experiencing and which results in the increase of the deforested area in the Amazon, which, on average, only added 0.013% per year to the Brazilian GDP in the last decade. And the big villain is the extensive cattle ranching that, besides being responsible for 65% of deforestation in the Amazon, has an average occupation of less than one head per hectare. There are 100,000 km² of degraded pastures in the region, according to INPE (National Institute for Space Research) in 2014, an area a little larger than Portugal.

Among other setbacks are PM 759, the deforestation PM, which gives amnesty to land invaders of  public lands between 2004 and 2011; the Bill (PL) that reduces the area of ​​the Jamanxim National Forest; and more recently PM 795, the trillion Reais  PM, which will stop  R$ 1 trillion in taxes relief until 2040 as an incentive to companies interested in oil and gas exploration in the Pre-sal area. According to the environment minister Sarney Filho, the project dealt “in secret” for at least two months between the Government  and the Congress, was an initiative of the Ministry of Finance and only has the signature of the Minister Henrique Meirelles.

Another study released this week was the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an organization made up of government bodies and civil society. He warns that climate change will duplicate threatened natural reserves. Worldwide, there are 241 world natural heritage sites declared by Unesco. The study found that one in four (62 in total) are at risk. This number is twice as high as in 2014. In Brazil there are seven such natural heritage sites: the Cerrado biome, Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas Islands and the Central Amazon have a good degree of conservation, but they are already concerns for their future. The Atlantic Forest and Pantanal biomes and the Iguaçu National Park have significant concerns about degradation. In addition to climate change, the study also highlights infrastructure works such as roads and dams, deforestation and cutting public resources to conserve these areas as aggravating factors for degradation.

Against these negative news, there is one positive (with a big BUT). Data from the Deforestation and Monitoring Project for Deforestation in the Amazon (PRODES), released by Minister Sarney Filho also this week during COP23, show that between August 2016 and July of this year, there was a 28% decrease in the deforestation of protected forests , administered by the Chico Mendes Institute of Biodiversity (ICMBio). Deforestation is the second lowest recorded since data collection started 20 years ago. The decline in deforestation outside the Conservation Units, however, was not accompanied by the same rate, falling by only 16%.

However, deforestation in federal protected areas represents 2.4% of the total. The survey also showed an increase in illegal mining areas within protected areas. 949 mining areas were registered by September this year, adding 45.8 km². Throughout the year 2016 the mapping indicated 382 areas, 29.3 km².


The Ministry of Environment and the Forum of the Governors of the Amazon, together with the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany, the National Development Bank/Amazon Fund and the Amazonian Environmental Research Institute promoted a debate with governments, private sector and civil society to discuss the challenges and opportunities of sustainable development in the Amazon. The event, called Amazon-Bonn, was held at the Bonn Art Museum. Participants included, among others, José Sarney Filho, Minister of the Environment, Brazil; Gerd Müller, Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany; the Cacique Raoni Kayapó, representative of the indigenous peoples; Vidar Helgesen, Norwegian Minister for the Environment; and Claire Perry, Minister of Energy and Climate Change UK. The result of this debate was the signing of cooperation agreements between the four countries that represent an investment of approximately USD 100 million for Brazil in the environmental area, according to the Ministry of Environment.

Environmentalist, indigenous and human rights organizations, together with representatives of the National  Environmentalist Front in Congress gathered in the city, took the opportunity to launch the manifesto below, in which they denounce these setbacks and the dubious discourse of the Brazilian government.


Brazil going in the wrong direction: internal setbacks compromise climate goals


Indigenous leaders, environmental and human rights organizations, together with representatives of the National Congress’s Environmentalist Parliamentary Front, met in Bonn, Germany, to protest against the contradiction between Brazil’s speech at COP 23 and the ongoing setbacks in the country.

The group recognizes the efforts of Brazilian diplomacy to get out of this meeting with a progressive design of the book of rules of the Paris Agreement. However, the country, an important actor in the negotiations, has tainted  international credibility due to the successive domestic measures that impose setbacks, not only on the climate agenda, but also – and especially – on the human rights agenda, which impact the whole Brazilian society, and its future.

The internal challenges to meeting Brazilian commitments to Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are enormous. National emissions of greenhouse gases are on the rise. Data from the Climate Observatory show that Brazil emitted 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent to an increase of 8.9% over the previous year. It is the highest in 13 years and the highest since 2008.

Even with the recent reduction in the rate of devastation in the Amazon, Brazil is far from meeting its domestic climate target. Only in 2017, deforestation in the biome was 6.624 km2. That number is 70% greater than that determined by the national climate law, according to which, Brazil was not to have more than 3,900 km2 deforested by 2020. In other words, to meet the target, an unprecedented fall in the deforestation rate would be necessary in the next three years.

In the area of ​​energy, the country is also moving against what must be done. The Ten-Year Energy Plan (2017-2026) predicts that 70.5% of all resources earmarked for energy investments in the next decade will go to fossil fuels, especially for pre-salt exploration. The sector can still receive another incentive from the government and Congress: a Provisional Measure 795, which extends the subsidy to oil companies, is to be voted in the House Plenary, generating a fiscal waiver of up to R$ 1 trillion in 25 years.

The list of socioenvironmental setbacks computed in recent months, anchored in the alliance between presidency and the rural caucus, which articulates reforms that impose environmental and social losses. A series of measures have increased the conflicts in the countryside, caused murders of activists, deforestation and emissions. Among them, we highlight:

The Deforestation Law

Law 13.465/2017 gives amnesty to invasions of public lands made between 2004 and 2011 and liberates for regularization large estates of up to 2,500 hectares.

The Temporal Demarcation

The government is adopting measures that adopts the ruralist caucus thinking which removes the rights of Indians and quilombolas who were expelled from their lands before the promulgation of the 1988 Constitution. Hundreds of demarcation processes are being affected.

Budget cuts

It was not enough to impose Constitutional Amendment 95 – which freezes public investments for 20 years, and successive budget cuts that directly affect the supervisory bodies and social programs, the budget proposal for 2018 further reduces the State’s capacity to promote public policies. This compromises, among others, the fundamental activities of Funai, Incra and ICMBio distancing Brazil from the commitments in the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).


Our country, which gained international recognition in the fight against slave labor, took another step back in October. The government  changed the concept of slave labor in order to make it more difficult to supervise and assess this crime.

Leasing Indigenous Lands

The government, in response to one more rural caucus request announced that it will send a proposal to lease Indigenous Lands to agribusiness. The measure, in defiance of the Constitution, will increase deforestation, social disintegration and conflict.

Criminalization and murder of activists

Brazil is the country that kills the most indigenous leaders, rural workers, environmentalists and human rights defenders. The cases do not have in-depth investigations and few criminals are even indicted. The rural caucus group led a Parliamentary Inquiry Commission of Funai and Incra with the clear objective of criminalizing leaders and defenders of indigenous and quilombola rights, members of the Federal Public Ministry and the academy.

In addition, there are other imminent setbacks in Congress: the easing of environmental licensing and registration of pesticides, the deregulation of the mining sector and the weakening of conservation units. All these setbacks and threats to the rights won weaken the Brazilian position in climate negotiations. We, indigenous leaders, parliamentarians and civil society, denounce this incoherence. We demand that the use of the socioenvironmental agenda be stopped as a bargaining chip for the maintenance of government. We require:

– That Provisional Measure 795 be withdrawn from Congress;

– That both the Deforestation Law and the ordinance of slave labor be revoked;

– That the budget of the inspection and support bodies for traditional communities and family agriculture be reconstituted.

– We also reject any act of the Executive, Legislative or Judiciary that violates the constitutional rights of indigenous peoples, quilombolas and traditional communities, and their ways of life.

We understand that, without reversing these setbacks, Brazil will not be able to comply with international agreements. But much worse than that, by throwing away fundamental assets such as its biological diversity and disregarding its sociodiversity, the country is missing the best opportunity to build a real development agenda in the century marked by the challenges of climate change.

Manfesto signatories:

Apib – Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil
Coiab – Coordenação das Organizações Indígenas da Amazônia Brasileira
Apoinme -Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Nordeste, Minas Gerais e Espírito Santo
Arpinsul – Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Sul
Arpinsudeste – Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Sudeste
Comissão Guarani Ywyrupa
Conselho Terena
Aty Guassu
RCA – Rede de Cooperação Amazônica
ISA- Instituto Socioambiental
CPI-AC – Comissão Pro-índio do Acre
CTI – Centro de Trabalho Indigenista
Iepé – Instituto de Pesquisa e Formação Indígena
ATIX- Associação Terra Indígena Xingu
HAY – Hutukara Associação Yanomami
CIR – Conselho Indígena de Roraima
Apina – Conselho das aldeias Wajãpi
Opiac – Organização dos Professores Indígenas do Acre
Foirn – Federação das Organizações Indígenas do Rio Negro
OGM – Organização Geral Mayuruna
Wyty-Catë – Associação dos Povos Indígenas Timbira
Amaaic – Associação do Movimento dos Agentes Agroflorestais Indígenas do Acre
Frente Parlamentar Ambientalista
Coordenação do Observatório do Clima
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