Environmental and indigenous activists condemn plan they say would threaten indigenous territories and make compliance with Paris deal impossible
Environmentalists and indigenous rights campaigners have attacked efforts by the Brazilian government to roll back laws protecting the environment and indigenous territories, warning the moves could have disastrous consequences and even threaten the country’s ability to meet its commitments under the Paris climate deal.
The two initiatives include a bill that critics say would dismantle environmental licensing laws and a draft government decree campaigners say threatens existing and future indigenous territories. Coming after a recently announced 29% jump in Amazon deforestation, they have caused widespread alarm.
The moves represent “the most worrying regressions of our recent history”, said Mauricio Guetta, a lawyer for Socio-Environmental Institute, a Brazilian non-governmental group.
“If approved, they will certainly make it impossible for Brazil to meet its commitments under the Paris agreement,” he said.
In ratifying the Paris agreement, Brazil committed to cut 37% of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and end illegal deforestation by 2030.
The bill to overhaul Brazil’s rigorous environmental licensing laws has been stalled for more than a decade. But an amended version is now being guided by Mauro Pereira, a congressman from President Michel Temer’s centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement party.
It proposes replacing standard environmental licensing procedures established by central government with a quicker, more flexible system in which different Brazilian states can decide which licences projects should have. Some companies can even supply their own licences. And in some cases the licence is exempted – including some agricultural activities, temporary works and electricity transmission lines.
Mauro Pereira said some licences took up to a decade to clear and that Brazil is losing business to neighbouring countries that have faster procedures.
“Our country needs clear laws, and laws that value the environment and value people,” Pereira said.
About 250 organizations and individuals, including non-government groups and environmental prosecutors, disagreed. They have signed a letter condemning the bill, arguing it could increase the risk of environmental disasters like one caused when a tailings dam burst in Mariana, flooding the Brazilian countryside with millions of litres of mining waste.
Suely Araújo, president of Brazil’s government environment agency, Ibama, said the proposal to let states and cities decide their own environmental licensing could lead to an “environmental war” as states competed to attract industries by offering looser licensing…
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