Brazilian Forest Law: Aldo's document is still characterized by setbacks

18 maio 2011    
An approval of Congressman Aldo Rebelo's proposal to amend the Brazilian Forest Law will potentially increase deforestation and make it unfeasible for Brazil to achieve its emissions decrease targets

By Bruno Taitson


The document with the Forest Law amendment proposal, presented late (around 10 PM) on May 11 by the appointed Congressman Aldo Rebelo -- representative from the Communist Party (PCdoB) in São Paulo responsible to write the law --, to be voted in haste by the plenary of the House of Representatives, continues to be a serious threat to the environment.  According to researchers, scientists and environmentalists connected to social movements, this document is a conservative one and means a setback from the perspective of environmental conservation and of maintaining the natural resources which are needed for agricultural and cattle ranching activities. 

The exemption from having to recompose (recover and restore) the legal reserve in rural properties measuring up to four fiscal modules - in some regions of Brazil this means 400 hectares (over 400 soccer fields) -- is of great concern.  During parliamentary discussions, Congressman Dr. Rosinha (representative from the Workers' Party - PT from Paraná state) made an alert saying that this measure "will cause big landowners to divide their lands in several portions of four modules each and thus be exempted from maintaining a legal reserve in a big extension of land."

The potential increase in deforestation in the various Brazilian regions which will follow the proposed change in the amendment would substantially increase Brazilian emissions.  According to a study published past year by Observatório do Clima (climate network), the change in the Forest Law could make it unfeasible for Brazil to achieve its targets for greenhouse gas emissions decrease -- a commitment which was made by the Brazilian government to the international community. 

Environmentalists are also displeased with the cutting down in the assignments of the National Environment Council (Conama) - according to Aldo Rebelo's proposal, the Council would lose the power to regulate law application.  "Conama is composed of representatives from the various segments of the Brazilian society linked to the environmental issues and thus ensures an important social control of the decision making process concerning environmental policies in the country.  To weaken such an organ would be extremely harmful", says Carlos Alberto de Mattos Scaramuzza, WWF-Brazil's Conservation Director.

Representatives from civil society organizations emphasized that, while they oppose several points of this proposal, the chief questioning should be about the document structure. According to an analysis made by SOS Forests (group of NGOs), the articles claimed by Rebelo as the ones he "gave in" to the environmentalists were later weakened through either additions or suppressions designed to make law implementation difficult.

Article 33 is a clear example of what was righteously called a series of tricks or traps, as former senator Marina Silva put it.  This article correctly creates a program for making the properties environmentally legal.  Nevertheless, the one year period which was set for the landowners to join this initiative may be postponed by means of a law decree, including at state level.  This means that governors could extend ad eternum the amnesty to previous deforestation and, therefore, cause irregular occupations to continue.

Scaramuzza also criticizes Rebelo's insistence in not hearing the scientific community.  He mentioned a recent study by the National Space Research Institute (INPE) stating that the Amazon rainfall rate could be decreased by over 40% by 2080 and that would have a clear impact on agriculture, energy production and the Brazilian economy.  "This situation is caused, among others, by deforestation from non-sustainable agriculture and cattle ranching. It is unacceptable that Congressman Aldo Rebelo continues to ignore this", said Scaramuzza.

On May 12, several civil society organizations sent an open letter to the party leaders and to the leader of the federal government in the House of Representatives, asking them to appoint a new Parliament representative for the law amendment proposal, due to the bias and temper outbursts displayed by Aldo Rebelo during this entire process.