Some news of recent weeks are raising alarm among those who worry about the health and sustainability of our planet.

The first: Brazil has decided to desist from the organization of the Climate Conference (COP-25), scheduled for the end of 2019. It was the Temer government, in 2017, to launch the candidacy of Brazil to host this important conference of UN. By attaching the high cost (about US$ 100 million) and the transition time of the country, Bolsonaro has withdrawn the candidacy of Brazil, built over many months of negotiations.

The second: in the period from August 2017 to July 2018 the deforestation of the Amazon grew by 13.7% compared to the previous 12 months, an area equivalent to 7900 square kilometers. This is the worst result in 10 years and indicates a potential and dangerous turnaround, given that in recent years the deforested area was constantly decreasing.

In addition to these news, Bolsonaro’s position on environmental issues is certainly not reassuring. In the order:

before the elections Bolsonaro declared that it wanted to unify the Ministry of Agriculture with that of the Environment, suggesting that it wanted to relegate the environment to a secretariat and to want to give Ministry status to agriculture alone. He had to quickly reverse itself, given the negative repercussions of meat and agricultural producers (especially soya), concerned about possible international retaliation that such a decision could have caused.

Bolsonaro said he wanted to get Brazil out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, following the example of Donald Trump, with all the possible consequences of the case: increased deforestation, openness to the exploitation of the indigenous territories, alteration of the licensing system environmental, etc.

– the future Foreign Minister, Ernesto Araujo, wrote in his blog that “the phenomenon of global warming is part of a Marxist plot to stifle Western economies and promote the growth of China”.

Although this last statement may seem folkloristic, it is grafted into a context of obvious hostility to issues related to environmental protection and sustainability in general.

The appointment of the lawyer Ricardo Salles as Minister of the Environment is another sign that causes concern among environmentalists. Salles, former Secretary of the Environment in the Government of Alckmin (State of São Paulo) and a member of the Millenium Institute, is an indication of the SRB (Sociedade Rural Brasileira), an association that defends the interests of agribusiness operators. According to Marina Silva, a recognized political exponent for the fight for environmental protection, the nomination of Salles “is a great threat to programs related to social justice and to the protection of the environment”.

The risk of a subordination of the Ministry of the Environment to that of Agriculture can certainly provoke an imbalance that favors landowners, but we must remember that Brazilian legislation is still one of the most advanced in the world in terms of environmental conservation of the territory.

The “Law against environmental crimes”

Issued in 1998, it severely punishes those responsible for crimes against flora and fauna, those who pollute, those who build in protected areas without authorization and in general who violates the legal rules regarding the use, protection and preservation of the environment.

The law is modern and complete, but unfortunately it lacks effective control by the supervisory bodies, be they government entities (like IBAMA) or police. Despite this ineffectiveness, Bolsonaro has repeatedly questioned the “industry of the environmental fines” which penalizes above all farmers and in general those who must comply with the need for environmental licensing to carry out activities that have a significant impact on the territory.

The “Legal Reserve Areas”

A law included in the Forestry Code, little known abroad, says a lot about the commitment of the Brazilian State in the preservation of its territory. It is the law that defines the Legal Reserve Areas (ARL) or the percentage of area that must be preserved in private rural properties. This percentage can go from 80% (in the Amazon regions) to 20% in all the other areas (with the exception of Cerrado where it is 30%).

For example, who owns a 1000 hectare rural property in an Amazon region can only allocate 200 to the cultivation: in the other 800 hectares must maintain the native vegetation, promoting biodiversity and the protection of fauna and flora.

The landowners, both large and small, are therefore the main protagonists of the preservation of the Brazilian territory and of the great biodiversity it hosts.


What can change with Bolsonaro?

It is a fact that Brazil’s political weight at international level has always been rather marginal. The only area in which, especially for its geographical features, has assumed a leadership role is precisely that linked to the environment and the fight against climate change. It is no coincidence that the first major conference on environment and development took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. For Bolsonaro, abandoning this strategic role at international level would certainly be a mistake, which Brazil would pay dearly in the middle price. and long period.

However, as Bolsonaro may wish to encourage greater exploitation of Brazilian natural resources, even at the expense of the great environmental capital of Brazil (and of the whole world), the legal limitations are quite extensive. He could hardly find consensus to suggest to the Parliament a change in the Forest Code or the Law against environmental crimes.

Moreover, should it succeed, the export of agricultural and breeding products would face severe international retaliation, causing the opposite effect to the desired one. No country (not even China, wrongly considered less stringent on environmental issues) that today imports Brazilian agribusiness products would authorize imports from a country that does not respect internationally defined environmental parameters.

A more obvious risk comes from the possibility that the role of some control bodies (for example the IBAMA) is weakened. These bodies today they guarantee, at least in part, that the existing laws are applied.

It is precisely in the “gray areas”, in turning a blind eye to abuse, in tolerating the non-fulfillment of legal obligations that hides the great danger. As in other areas (human rights, liberty of expression, etc.), the role of judicial control and the supervision of national and international non-profit organizations will be fundamental.