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Congress threatens forest protection areas again

Parliament members may override the presidential veto on provisional measures 756 and 758, and analyze a new draft bill that affects the same region.

Even though president Michel Temer has vetoed Provisional Measures (MP) 756 and 758, which threatened to reduce nearly 600,000 hectares of important forest protection areas in the states of Pará and Santa Catarina, this week the subject returned to members of Congress, who may reject the presidential decision. Additionally, a new draft bill (PL 8107/2017) was presented to the Chamber of Deputies yesterday with the utmost urgency, to specifically address the reduction of 349,085 hectares in the Jamanxim National Forest, in Pará.

Analysis of the MP vetoes had been scheduled for the Chamber during yesterday’s plenary session on July 13. But the subject was struck from the agenda and should be analyzed before the Chamber’s next session on August 15.

MP 756 and 758 not only affect the Jamanxim National Forest (Flona), but the Jamanxim National Park in Pará and São Joaquim National Park in Santa Catarina, which are critical areas for preservation. For example, from 2004 to 2016 the Jamanxim National Forest lost more than 117,000 hectares of forests, which led to the release of 70 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to calculations from the Environmental Research Institute of the Amazon (IPAM). By 2030, the expropriation of this area may result in 280,000 fewer hectares of forest, and the emission of 140 million tons of CO2.

In May, the Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture publicly requested the veto of these measures. A letter signed by the Brazilian Coalition was delivered to the president and several other representatives of the Brazilian government. Numerous national and international organizations and leaders voiced their opposition, including the model Gisele Bundchen, who received Temer’s response with regard to the veto via Twitter.

The president vetoed the MP on the deadline for the sanctions, on the eve of a visit to the Norwegian government, which is a leading investor in the Amazon Fund. Even so, he could not reverse the image of increasing Brazilian deforestation, and Norway consequently announced a R$ 200 million cut in its donations to Brazil.

The goal of draft bill 8107 is to replace MP 756 and to further increase the area established in the original version of the MP, which converted part of the Jamanxim National Forest into an Environmental Protection Area (APA), a less rigid category which allows privately held properties, farming, and mining within these areas.

When announcing that Temer would veto MP 756 and 758, Environment Minister Sarney Filho had already declared that a draft bill would be submitted to address land conflicts and illegal activities in the region, which has been the scene of numerous protests. On July 7, pickup trucks belonging to the Brazilian Environmental Protection Agency (Ibama) were burned in an attack on this agency’s inspection and monitoring efforts.

The current social and environmental setbacks in Congress (according to these MP and this draft bill) go far beyond environmental damage. The country is not only losing investments, but also a great opportunity to position itself as a leader in the low-carbon economy; it is also ignoring the significant work of constructing regulatory frameworks like the Forest Code, and groundbreaking tools like the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR) and the National System for Control of the Origin of Forest Products (Sinaflor).

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