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Brazil has unveiled its plan to protect the Amazon.  Critics say it’s not enough
Retired Army General and Vice President Hamilton Mourao published the 2021/2022 Amazon Plan in the Brazilian Official Gazette on Wednesday. It prioritizes the mitigation of deforestation in five of the nine states of the “legal Amazon”, itself equivalent to around 60% of the Brazilian territory, and foresees several changes in the way the federal government and the states who make up the basin manage the vast area.

Among the policy changes, the plan describes the strengthening and merging of agencies that monitor and combat illegal activities related to the environment and land use. It also calls for regularizing land ownership and offering new economic alternatives to the inhabitants of the region, in particular by promoting business development and developing health and education infrastructure.

By 2022, the Amazon plan also aims to bring annual deforestation losses down to the average recorded between 2016 and 2020 – an area of ​​around 8,700 square kilometers. That’s a significant drop from the current level of destruction – the Brazilian Institute for Space Research (INPE), which tracks forest loss by satellite, estimates 11,088 square kilometers were lost to deforestation in 2020.

However, the 2022 target still allows about 16% more deforestation than the year before Bolsonaro took office – barely a reversal of losses in the world’s largest rainforest, a vital bulwark in the world. effort against climate change. According to the INPE, 7,500 square kilometers of Amazonia were deforested in 2018.

Carlos Nobre, one of Brazil’s leading climatologists, describes the 2022 deforestation target as “very modest”. He says that “to generate optimism, the targets for 2021-2022 should be at least 2,000 square kilometers below the average (2016-2020). And with a medium-term goal of reducing annual deforestation to less than 4,000 square kilometers. Three years. “

“The official federal government document in very general and is not specific about actual measures that have shown a pronounced positive effect in the past,” adds Nobre.

Marcio Astrini, head of Brazil’s environmental advocacy network Climate Observatory, says the government’s plan essentially admits allowing more forest clearing. “This means that Bolsonaro’s government is committed to delivering, after four years, a rate of deforestation … higher than when his government started. It’s not a target, it’s an environmental crime confession. “said Astrini.

He criticizes Bolsonaro’s government for encouraging illegal activities and forest clearing in the Amazon, noting that a set of laws currently being proposed before Congress would facilitate the development of protected lands. “Under Bolsonaro, the forest is alone and under the control of criminals,” Astrini said.

Deforestation skyrocketed during Bolsonaro’s presidency. In 2019, his first year as president, INPE data shows the Amazon lost 10,129 square kilometers to deforestation – a 34 percent increase from the previous year.

Although the president has passed several decrees and laws to protect the Amazon, he simultaneously cut funding for government-run environmental protection and monitoring programs and pushed to open up indigenous lands to commercial agriculture. and mining.

The unveiling of the plan comes just a week before Brazil participates in a high-level virtual climate conference hosted by US President Joe Biden, which begins on April 22.

Highlighting their distrust of Bolsonaro’s environmental commitments, last week nearly 200 non-governmental organizations publicly called on Biden not to strike any Amazon protection deal with Bolsonaro without broader consultation with civil society. and indigenous groups.

On Monday, US Ambassador to Brazil Todd Chapman met with members of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) after requesting a “direct channel” of communication with the United States on issues related to the Brazilian Amazon. .

State-level officials in Brazil have also sought to establish a direct line with Washington for environmental negotiations. Representatives from 22 of Brazil’s 26 states as well as the Federal District this week wrote a public letter to Biden asking the United States to partner directly with state governors, promising transparency and “verifiable results.”

“Our States have funds and mechanisms specially created to respond to the climate emergency. [The funds are] available for safe and transparent use of international resources, ensuring rapid and verifiable results, ”the letter said.

Nobre, climate scientists, says that a bright spot in Brazil’s efforts to tackle deforestation does not come at all from the government, but from big companies taking greater responsibility for their supply chains. “The only somewhat positive indicator does not come from the government. It is emerging from large agribusinesses in the meat and soybean chains that are committed to driving deforestation-free supply chains in the next 5 years,” he says.

“Many companies have committed to zero deforestation (illegal and legal) until 2025. This has likely sent a clear message to the organized crime behind most of the illegal deforestation that the tracking systems being implemented will make. much more difficult for them to market mainly meat. illegally deforested areas, even land seized by criminals. “

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