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Can Bolsonaro be believed in his promise on the environment?


Brazilian activists and celebrities have asked not to believe Jair Bolsonaro's words about his commitment to the environment.

The Amazon rainforest in the sights of the climate summit 3:17

(CNN) -

World leaders met virtually Thursday to discuss climate issues at a summit called by US President Joe Biden.

Perhaps the most anticipated is what the leaders of some of the countries with the greatest environmental impact in the world, including Brazil, China and India, have to say.

But critics ranging from Brazilian environmentalists to American celebrities are warning the world not to listen to one: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

This Thursday, Bolsonaro appeared to moderate his tone on environmental issues at the climate summit, reconfirming his goal of eliminating illegal deforestation in the country by 2030. He stated that his government is strengthening environmental agencies, which goes in the opposite direction to the actions. taken so far by your Ministry of the Environment.

Bolsonaro called on the international community to provide funds to help conserve the Amazon.

“We agree, Mr. President [Biden], with your call for ambitious commitments.

In that sense, I have determined that our climate neutrality will be reached by 2050. Anticipating the previous goal in 10 years, "he said.

"Among the measures necessary to achieve this, I highlight here the commitment to eliminate illegal deforestation by 2030. With that, we will reduce our emissions [of greenhouse gases] by almost 50% until that date," he added.


  • Should Biden and Bolsonaro team up to protect the Amazon?

    Some Brazilian activists say no

Bolsonaro's challenges and problems after 3 years in power 3:36

Bolsonaro's record on the environment

As president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro controls one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with 19% of the world's remaining primary tropical forest, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world and a vast 59% of its territory is covered by forests, much of the Amazon, which functions as an "air conditioner" for the entire planet, influencing temperature patterns and global precipitation, and carbon dioxide absorption.

For a time, Brazil was considered a model for the world in certain environmental indicators.

According to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), from 2004 to 2013 the country reduced its annual deforestation by almost three-quarters and, by signing the Paris Agreement, in 2015, it pledged to reduce emissions by 37% by 2025 .

But those trends are being reversed under Bolsonaro.

Since the bombastic "tropical Trump" took office, both deforestation and carbon emissions have been increasing, INPE said. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro's Environment Minister Ricardo Salles has taken some peculiar positions, considering his title: precisely a year ago, on April 22, 2020, Salles was infamously filmed advising the president to take advantage of the covid pandemic. -19 to weaken regulations. Now, Brazil's Supreme Court is weighing the possibility of opening an investigation into allegations that Salles obstructed a Federal Police investigation into illegal logging in the Amazon. In response, the Ministry of the Environment told CNN Brazil: "The answer will be given in court."

However, earlier this month, the president of Brazil sent a letter to Biden, promising to work towards a zero deforestation rate by 2030 in the country, a statement praised as "important" by US Climate Envoy John. Kerry.

  • PHOTOS |

    These celebrities are fighting climate change

Alarming deforestation figure in the Brazilian Amazon 1:02

They ask to "distrust" Bolsonaro

But this was followed by a wave of skepticism. Climate activists, civil society groups and state officials wrote to the US government asking to establish direct partnerships without the president. Fifteen Democratic senators - including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy - told Biden to be wary that Bolsonaro was "using climate-friendly rhetoric, with no concrete results." Even Hollywood got involved, with actors like Jane Fonda and Katy Perry signing a letter with Brazilian artists, like Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, demanding that Biden not reach an agreement with Bolsonaro.

Such critics fear that any agreement reached between Brazil and other nations to protect the environment will embolden the Brazilian president, while initiatives that erode environmental protections continue apace, such as legislation to regularize public lands stolen by land grabbers. and legalize illegal mining and large-scale agriculture.

on indigenous lands.

At the center of the divide is this: can Bolsonaro be believed that he will protect the environment?

Bolsonaro's office and the Environment Ministry did not respond to requests for comment from CNN.

  • Bolsonaro's ego stands in the way of saving the Amazon

"The Amazon is ours and we are going to develop it"

The Brazilian government has defended its environmental record as sufficient, and emphasized the country's economic well-being as a key priority.

In a video posted on his social media in September last year, Bolsonaro boasted that Brazil protects its environment, but argued that the Amazon region needs economic development for the well-being of residents.

«Brazil is the country that conserves the environment the most.

The Amazon is ours and we are going to develop it.

After all, there are more than 20 million Brazilians who cannot be left behind.

Congratulations to everyone on the day of our Amazon.

The Amazon will be increasingly Brazilian, ”he said.

On April 19, its vice president, General Hamilton Mourão, told a press conference that Brazil was already doing its part for global environmental efforts and did not have to "beg" for funds at the climate summit to improve.

“We don't have to be a beggar there.

Let's be very clear: we have our responsibilities.

Brazil is responsible for only 3% of the world's emissions ”, declared Mourão.

Environment Minister Salles told the Brazilian press that his intention for the Climate Summit is to request foreign aid of US $ 1 billion a year from the United States and other partners to help Brazil stop illegal deforestation.

(The Biden administration has shown no sign of offering new funding or support to Bolsonaro for climate action.)

The Amazon suffers more from covid-19 5:08

Bolsonaro asked for international aid for the Amazon

This Thursday, at the climate summit, Bolsonaro requested international financing to help conserve the Amazon.

“Given the magnitude of the obstacles, including financial ones, it is essential to be able to count on the contribution of countries, companies, entities and people willing to act immediately, real and constructively in solving these problems.

This year, the international community will have a unique opportunity to cooperate in building our common future, "he said.

Bolsonaro insisted that the Amazon region must develop economically.

"The solution to this Amazonian paradox is an essential condition for the sustainable development of the region," he said, arguing that Brazil has little contribution to climate change.

But it is not clear that financing problems alone are behind the Brazilian government's lackluster record of environmental protection. The Environment Ministry has not yet spent the funds already available to combat deforestation: Salles did not use a third of the money destined to combat deforestation in the Amazon that has been available since April 2018. The program ended this April and the fund returned to the Ministry of Economy.

In other ways, the Environment Minister has made it difficult to enforce environmental protection, according to officials in charge of the work.

An April 19 letter signed by more than 600 environmental officials from the Institute for the Environment and Renewable Resources (Ibama) and the ministry's conservation arm (ICMBio) said they had been "paralyzed" by recent orders to stop the processing of new fines and the reduction of field agents and powers to issue fines for environmental infractions.

The environment ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Over the past two years, the Bolsonaro government has also opened the door to increased deforestation and emissions.

Aerial view of deforestation in the Nascentes da Serra do Cachimbo Biological Reserve in Altamira in the Amazon Basin.

Earlier this month, Mourão announced the Bolsonaro government's first official goal to combat deforestation in the Amazon: a deforestation rate in 2022 16% higher than the year before Bolsonaro took office, though less than the current level of destruction.

INPE estimates that 11,088 square kilometers were lost to deforestation in 2020.

The 2022 goal has been described as "very modest" by Brazilian climate research leader Carlos Nobre, while Marcio Astrini, head of the Brazilian environmental defense network Climate Observatory, called it a confession of "environmental crime." .

Environmental deforestation in Brazil

Most of the deforestation in Brazil is due to deliberate land clearing.

Mining alone has deforested 405.36 km² of the Legal Amazon in the last five years, an area larger than the city of Denver, according to INPE data.

And with deforestation come emissions.

Heat-trapping gases are released when primary forests are cut down and fires are started to clear the land for other uses, according to the Climate Observatory.

Brazil's latest update of its climate target for the Paris Agreement also allows it to emit more carbon than previously agreed, using an outdated methodology for calculating emissions, which would allow it to emit more greenhouse gases without changing the original percentage reduction targets. .

In October, the Brazilians released an improved version of the calculation, correcting certain flaws in the previous version that overestimated the deforestation rate.

But according to a study by researchers at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil's Ministry of the Environment has continued to use the outdated method until December.

Environmental services researcher Raoni Rajao and colleagues at the Federal University of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais (UFMG) say the outdated methodology allows Brazil to emit 400 million more tons of greenhouse gases than promised when Brazil first signed once the Paris Agreement.

The environment ministry did not respond to a request for comment on this matter.

Carlos Rittl, a senior researcher at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany, says that given the past two years, Brazil will participate in the Climate Summit "with nothing to show" as proof of its commitment to the environment.

"The government wants to present a photo of a deforested forest and sell it as sustainable," he told CNN.

AmazoniaJair Bolsonaro

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2021-04-22

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