Brazil: Protect Your Forests!

As the world tries to find ways to reduce global emissions, Brazil is on the verge of igniting a real carbon bomb. A bill to change the country’s Forest Law is about to be approved, resulting in the increase of deforestation by reducing protected areas, removing the obligations for the restoration of cleared areas, and pardoning loggers. The proposed bill will be sent to President Dilma Roussef for final consideration in coming weeks.

This proposed change will compromise the National Policy on Climate Change and the emission reduction actions announced by Brazil in 2009 during COP 15. Moreover, Brazil has used the reduction of deforestation rates to justify a position of leadership on environmental issues.  Yet the mere anticipation of approval of the bill has already caused an increase of deforestation. One of the foreseeable  consequences is that an area almost the size of France and Great Britain combined (790,000 km2), will lose legal protection, according to estimates presented by the Brazilian government itself. The negative impacts to the planet’s climate will be incredibly high, as deforestation and land use represent about 75% of Brazilian CO2 emissions.

In light of the fact that Brazil will be hosting the Rio+20 conference next year, the situation becomes even more delicate and embarrassing. In the corridors here in Durban, these developments are causing considerable consternation. The Forest Law was a hot topic during Brazil’s first press conference at COP 17, and the discussion spilled outside the meeting room.

Brazil has historical prominence in the climate negotiations. Therefore, there is certain to be an expectation that President Dilma Roussef will send a clear message to the world showing that Brazil will meet the commitments announced  in Copenhagen, avoiding a stain on the country’s prestige and avoiding setbacks in its environmental policy. It’s up to the President to determine whether she will stop the proposed Forest Law or embrace an imminent tragedy.

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