Brazil’s Forest Code Vote Would Cripple Environmental Regulation, Call Into Question Country’s Environmental Leadership

The Brazilian House of Representatives’ passage of new forestry legislation could legalize deforestation in hundreds of thousands of acres of currently protected forest, and provide amnesty for past illegal deforestation in the country.

Although opposed by Brazil’s major scientific bodies — the National Academy of Sciences and the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Sciences — as well as by a group of ten former Environment Ministers, the new forestry law passed by a substantial margin.

“Brazil has been a leader in international efforts to protect rainforests and slow climate change, but its vote to throw open hundreds of thousands of currently protected acres to deforestation threatens to undermine its position on the world stage,” said Environmental Defense Fund Vice President for Climate and Air Steve Cochran.

Between 2006 and 2010, Brazil slowed Amazon deforestation about 2/3 below the annual average from 1996–2005, reducing about 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas pollution. But preliminary reports from Brazil’s National Space Research Agency (INPE) suggest that deforestation has increased about 30% over last year, and Brazil’s Environment Ministry and many researchers hold that the increase was connected to expectations that the Congress would weaken forest protection requirements in the Forestry Code.

The forestry legislation now goes to the Senate, which may deliberate for several months before a vote, and will ultimately be sent to President Dilma Rousseff.

Brazil is hosting the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development next year.

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