No amnesty on illegal Amazon deforestation, declares Brazil president

Posted on 09 June 2011

 Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has used a key diplomatic event to re-emphasise that there will be  no amnesties granted for illegal deforestation.
Brasilia, Brazil;  Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has marked the country's preparations for next year's landmark Rio +20 conference on sustainable development by repeating that there will be  no amnesty granted to those that had carried out deforestation.

"There will be no negotiation or prevarication on the issue of deforestation," Rousseff said, without making any specific reference to the divisive debate on a proposed radical cut to forest protection measures that have cleared Brazil's National Assembly.

Anticipation of the changes - which still have to pass the Brazilian Senate and receive presidential assent - has been linked to a dramatic upsurge in deforestation rates in the Amazon and elsewhere in recent months.

Generous amnesty provisions

This has been linked to generous amnesty provisions for illegal clearing in areas under protection in the current law such as forests by waterways, on steep slopes and high elevation watersheds.  Forest reserve requirements - and more vigorous enforcement - are credited with key roles in Brazil's leading record in reducing deforestation over recent years.

"We are determined to fulfil the commitments we have made and will not tolerate any steps backwards in the historical process," declared the President during her speech, which celebrated the setting up of the National Committee and the Organising Commmittee of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).

The President was likely trying to strengthen Brazil's image overseas as a defender of the environment in the face of alarm that a revised Forest Bill would see a return to the devastating rates of forest destruction that was a key impetus to the original Rio conference.

Dilma reaffirmed Brazil's commitment to continuing its role as a global leader both in food production and as an environmental power and to making use of renewable energy sources.

WWF-Brazil CEO Denise Hamú, present at the ceremony in the Planalto Palace, considers the event to be an important milestone. "President Dilma was applauded for a full five minutes. The audience made up of diplomats, members of parliament, members of the government and other important guests demonstrated its enthusiastic support for the commitments made in regard to the environment," said Hamú.

"I think that Dilma Roussef sensed the force of society's wish for a serious policy committed to environmental conservation."

Senators responsible for crucial report named.

In another development, the Senators responsible for a pre-debate report on the proposed bill from the standing committee on Agriculture and the Environment have been named. 

They are the senator for Santa Catarina, Luiz Henrique (Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro -PMDB) linked to the 'ruralista' parliamentary group (agribusiness and big landholders) and senator for Acre, Jorge Viana (Partido dos Trabalhadores- PT) connected to the pro-environment group.  

Both have both declared their intention to achieve consensus on a final text that is representative of the positions of both groups.

This marks a distinct change from the lower house process, where the report advocating proposed "reforms" was under the control of the ruralista grouping who pushed forward the controversial measures in the face of complaints of inadequate consultation with scientists and community groups.

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