People in the streets say NO to Brazilian Forest Law changes
Bruno Taitson, from Brasilia
Photo: WWF-Brasil / Claudio Maretti
The demonstration that took place this Tuesday (Nov 29) in Brasilia shows how far the House of Representatives and Federal Senate are failing to represent the interests of Brazilian society as a whole in the discussions on the proposed changes to the Forest Law. Thousands of students, environmentalists, researchers, family farmers, progressive parliamentarians and representatives of civil society occupied the lawns in front of the Congress and the Três Poders Square, in Brasilia, to show that Brazil is not willing to accept modifications to its environmental legislation that only promote the interests of a favoured few, in this case the big agribusiness and landholding interests of the ‘ruralistas’.
The group unfolded a peaceful protest against the legal text of the draft reform bill that will come before the Senate for voting, probably in the next few days. Criticism is most vociferous against the proposal to pardon environmental crimes committed before July 2008, the proposed changes to the form of calculating the size of Permanent Protection and legal reserve areas, the exemption from the obligation to recuperate illegally deforested areas and the transfer of the power of decision on a series of environmental issues to the state and municipal spheres of authority.
Former Senator and ex-Minister of the Environment Marina Silva defended the mobilization of the people to pressure senators to reject the retrograde proposals and to call on the President of the Republic, Dilma Rousseff, to veto the provisions that promote amnesty and reduce protection for the legal reserve and Permanent Protection areas. “Dilma will be more than justified in vetoing these points of the law in keeping with the commitments she made during the second round of the presidential election campaign”, she insisted.
Senator for Amapa Randolfe Rodrigues (PSOL) also spoke out during the demonstration. He regretted last week’s approval of the draft version presented by senator for Acre Jorge Viana (PT). “The draft bill as it stands only benefits a handful of big agribusiness groups and large landowners and it will actually be promoting and rewarding deforestation in the Amazon. The text sets us against the tide of history, it stands for economic power alone, which destroys and debilitates so many beautiful things”, he declared.
Via Campesina representative Luiz Zarref feels that the people have been sending very clear messages that they are not willing to accept the changes proposed in the ruralistas’ draft bill. “Agribusiness has no serious commitments to society as a whole. They release their pesticides from their crop-dusting aircraft onto the crops, families, cities forests and wild animals below. Those that only know how to produce commodities for export see the forest as an enemy. Family-based agriculture produces food crops without resorting to the destruction of the forests”, he explained.
University of Brasilia sociology student Pedro Piccolo highlighted the grassroots mobilization on this issue and declared that society’s dissatisfaction with the changes that are being pushed through in the Senate and House of Representatives is very clear. “The Congress and the Federal Government are on their knees before the big agribusiness interests. The supposed concern for governability is casting out our dreams of a better country”, he surmised.
There were also around 300 children in the Tres Poderes square showing the Congress and the President of the Republic that the upcoming generations are the ones that will be most highly jeopardised by the changes to the Forest law. A petition with over 1.5 million signatures was handed in to the President of the Republic expressing society’s deep discontent with the direction taken by the debate on the draft bill in the Senate and House of Representatives and calling on the President to veto those provisions that contemplate amnesty for deforestation and the reduction of Permanent Protection and Legal Reserve areas.
Legal reserves - a proportion of rural land that should be maintained permanently as natural forest
Areas of Permanent Protection - natural vegetation in sensitive areas such as on steep slopes and along the margins of rivers and streams that should be protected and it is prohibited to be deforested.
Forest law reform bill – On 2011, the Brazilian House of Representatives (or Deputies) passed a law that reduces the requirement for Legal Reserves and Areas of Permanent Protection. The proposed legislative reform is currently under review in the Senate and should be voted this week.
Environmental protection - In the last decade, Brazilian terrestrial protected areas represented some 70 per cent of all terrestrial protected areas declared globally, and provided significant fundamental environmental services for Brazil. Globally these protected areas, specially the Amazon rain forest is vital for biodiversity and for the maintenance of climate and rainfall patterns.
Climate Change - Brazil approved a National Policy on Climate Change that defines a greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 36.1% to 38.9% by 2020. This reduction represents 1.1 billion tons of CO2e per year. Almost two thirds of this reduction in emissions would come from reducing deforestation in the Amazon and the Cerrado regions.
Brazil committed to reducing deforestation in the Amazon by 80% and in Cerrado by 40% by the year of 2020, in comparison to average rates from 1996 to 2005.
Implications of the new Forest Code - Give amnesty for land owners that illegally cleared legal reserves and areas of permanent protection until July 2008; reduce areas that should be preserved under native vegetation cover by including areas of permanent protection and legal reserve. Reduce the width of areas of permanent protection along rivers and streams
Ruralistas – Brazilian parliamentarians representing agribusiness and big landholding interests.
Process – on 30 November probably voting on the Senate Plenary. After, the proposed Forest Code reformed will be sent to the House of Representatives (Deputies). New voting at the Plenary of House of Representatives Than the law is sent to the President for approval or veto. On 14 December, beginning of congressional leave, lasting until mid-February.