Brazilian government suspends Renca decree while other threats to Amazon Forest are still on fire
05 setembro 2017
Renca is only one of the ongoing offensives against Brazilian protected areas.After a week of national and international upheaval to preserve the Amazon, on August 31st the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy retreated and announced the decision of the Temer government to suspend the decree that extinguished the National Reserve of Copper and Associates (Renca) and allowed mining in the area. Within 120 days, the government should hold a debate with society and present conclusions on sustainable development in the region. WWF-Brazil considers a victory for the socio-environmental movement but warns that there is no time to rest: the threats to protected areas and native communities are present in bills that will be voted on Congress in the coming weeks.
Renca is only one of the ongoing offensives against Brazilian protected areas. There is a package of measures of setbacks in socio-environmental policy that only deepens in the Temer government. It ranges from the weakening of environmental licensing to the sale of land to foreigners, through the reduction of protected areas and the suspension of indigenous land demarcations. “We are facing the biggest attack on the environment, indigenous peoples and traditional communities of the last decades. So we hope that the government will convene the society not only to comment on Renca but also to define the direction for the development of the Amazon and other threatened biomes”, said Mauricio Voivodic, executive director of WWF-Brazil.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote in the next days on the proposed general law on environmental licensing (PL 3729). The rapporteur, Mauro Pereira (PMDB-RS), linked to the ruralist group, presented on Tuesday the thirteenth version of the substitute negotiated between the government, ruralists, and industry.
After great pressure from environmental NGOs and the Ministry of the Environment (MMA), Pereira gave up on changing the Law of the National System of Conservation Units (Law 9.985/00) on the part that requires specific licensing in case of a venture of significant environmental impact in Conservation Units or their buffer zone.
In practice, this proposal would end with the obligation to support the implementation and maintenance of Conservation Units by impacting ventures. Pereira's new text also removes the device that would facilitate the start-up of operation of road, rail and electricity projects using the installation license granted before the start of the project. Environment Minister Sarney Filho confirmed that the General Licensing Law could be approved in a few days. For him, the text is not ideal, but it was the possible agreement, and it is a breakthrough.
When asked if the government will comply with the agreement, the minister replied that the "Civil House would respect what leaves here. This is the president's decision." Sarney Filho also confirms that there was a consensus on the locational criterion and the power of the management units of Conservation Units (other points of great pressure from NGOs and the Public Prosecutor's Office). The CUs are considered fundamental for the definition and rigor of the process and enforceability of the EIA-Rima (environmental impact study).
"This new text still includes serious threats to the environment, as it exempts several activities of environmental licensing," said Michel Santos, WWF-Brazil Public Policy Coordinator. For him, a law can not be made up of a list of waivers, but a general rule of how licensing should be applied taking into account socio-environmental safeguards.
The text on the table, however, continues to suggest otherwise. It provides for exemption from licensing for various agricultural activities, such as cultivation of agricultural species and extensive livestock, as well as forestry. The exemption is also provided for services and works for improvement, modernization, maintenance and expansion of capacity in pre-existing facilities or the domain and service bond of activities or enterprises.
In the evaluation of the coordinator of WWF-Brazil, if the text is approved with this content, the risk of increasing legal uncertainty regarding the environmental licensing process in Brazil will be enormous. "All such exemptions will be the subject of unconstitutionality actions. It will not be good for the economic or financial sector."