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Brazil and the world depend on the Amazon: it does not deserve to be destroyed by unlawfulness

During this World Environment Day, the Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests, and Agriculture warns, once more, about the severe scenario of illegal deforestation and fire outbreaks in the Amazon. They have been representing a high risk to biodiversity, climate, water security, and have been devastating to traditional peoples and the country’s reputation for markets, investors, and society in general.

According to MapBiomas, 99% of all the deforestation in Brazil in 2019 has definite signs of illegal activities, i.e., occurred in protected areas that have restrictions regarding vegetation removal or without authorization. About 75% of deforestation in 2019 coincides with lands registered in the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR). Therefore, it is possible to associate an Individual or General Taxpayer Registry Number (CPF – for individuals and CNPJ – for businesses) with the area deforested.

A recent trend indicates the deforestation rate will set a new record of the decade in 2020. Data from INPE’s DETER system registered 5,666 squared kilometers of the Brazilian Amazon deforested between August of 2019 and April of 2020, the equivalent of a 95% increase compared to the period between August 2018 and April 2019. In April, according to data from Imazon, Brazil has lost part of the Amazon Forest equivalent to the size of the city of Porto Alegre (RS). It was 529 square kilometers destroyed, an increase in 171% compared with April last year.

Studies from IPAM indicate that 2019’s fire season in the Amazon was connected to the increase in deforestation and not with the typical weather of the dry season in the region. Actions to combat the flames avoided that the fire scenarios in 2019 became even worse. However, they were not able to contain the increase in deforestation.

The Amazon Council needs to establish a coordinated and continuous action with all the Amazon region’s environmental inspection agencies. Brazil has excellent laws that, if implemented, will bring answers to the fight against unlawfulness.

One of the central pillars of the maintenance of Amazon’s integrity and its benefits to the country is the proper treatment of public areas in that biome, currently highly vulnerable. There was an increase in 50% of deforestation in Conservation Units, Indigenous Lands, unassigned areas and land without information between January and March 2020 compared to the same period last year. In these areas, land grabbing and theft of natural resources occur; both are crimes against public assets that demand effective and immediate action from the State. In addition to public assets damaging, land grabbing also has the indirect effect of associating the well succeeded and respectable Brazilian agriculture to land stealing, making this matter even more urgent to be solved.

It is necessary to act now to avoid that a more intense new season of deforestation and fires materialize this year, given the increase in deforestation in 2020 and adding the vegetation cut down in 2019 that has not been burned yet. It is essential to decree a fire moratorium from now until, at least, the end of the dry season.

To exacerbate this worrying scenario, the Executive Power, in May and April of 2020, has taken measures that compromise inspection and conservation of our forests. The dismissals in the inspection sector of IBAMA and the normative ruling of Funai to legalize farms in indigenous lands in the process of homologation go against combating environmental crimes. Such measures should be reviewed by the Amazon Council to avoid the weakening of the environmental institutions and policies.

The image and the commercial position of the country have never been so compromised. The collective work that took decades to build a good reputation is quickly being undone.

This scenario goes beyond environmental urgency. Brazil’s GDP and future growth are intrinsically connected to the protection of the Amazon. Businesses, particularly the agricultural sector, depend upon the maintenance of ecosystem services, such as the rain. Our forests act as Brazilian agriculture’s “sprinkler.” Besides the water, there are many other ecosystem services, such as pollination of crops, which directly benefits food production.

Also, today Amazon is the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The crisis demonstrated the interdependence of the system and the need to integrate social and environmental dimensions.

There is no Brazil without an Amazon economically and socially prosperous, and environmentally preserved. The image of the forest and its populations preserved is the image of the country. Therefore, fighting against unlawfulness in the Amazon, based on permanent, continuous, and coordinated actions, with wide participation and support from society, is the only path possible for a Brazil that desires to be understood by the world as a nation that is serious, vigilant of its laws, and in search of sustainable trajectories of development.

Brazil had already shown that it is capable of behaving like that and has successful experience in drastically reducing deforestation when it implemented the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon. The sectors that are part of the Brazilian Coalition – with more than 200 representatives of agribusiness, civil society, financial sector, and academia – support the urgent resumption of this initiative as the solution.

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