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Government insists on extinction of mineral reserve without discussing with society or providing impact study

Note of the Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture on the extinction of the National Reserve of Copper and its Associates (RENCA):

São Paulo, August 29, 2017 – The Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture condemns the extinction of the National Reserve of Copper and its Associates (RENCA) carried out by presidential decree on August 28. Even if this decree replaces the previous one to detail how environmental preservation will take place in the region, this measure again is announced without being subjected to discussions with society. The Brazilian Coalition believes that without listening to the different stakeholders, the Government will not be able to construct an adequate plan to ensure the preservation of regional protected areas, all the more while refusing to conduct a socio-environmental study on the impact of the extinction of the reserve.

This measure comes in addition to other Government and Congress actions that contradict the development of a low-carbon economy, one that creates quality jobs, fosters innovation, boosts Brazil’s global competitiveness, while generating and distributing wealth to the whole society. This decision otherwise worsens the national scenario of social and environmental setbacks.

The threat to forest protection has already been identified as a concern by the Brazilian Coalition, in the case of bills to reduce Conservation Units (CU) and specifically in the case of Provisional Measures 756 and 758, actions that can cause increased deforestation in the country and that, unfortunately, returned to the Congress’ agenda as a bill (PL No. 8107/2017). Even if the current decree does not change the rules of the nine environmental protection areas present in RENCA, releasing the mining activity results in drastic changes in the occupation dynamics of the region while bringing great risks to the maintenance of these areas and their ecosystems. One of the areas that could suffer from the extinction of RENCA is the Tumucumaque Mountains National Park, the largest national park in Brazil and the largest in the world’s rainforests.

Currently, only 0.31% of RENCA’s forest area is deforested, according to PRODES data. According to IPAM (Amazon Research Institute, in the Portuguese acronym) calculations, this percentage should increase to 5%, even if the protection of the environmental areas is not changed, or even reach 31%, if these protected areas lose their effectiveness in containing the pressure of deforestation, which can be caused by the multiplication of legal and illegal mining, mainly, in the area of the Paru State Forest (figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1. A 5% increase in deforestation in RENCA’s forest area, even with maintenance of environmental protection areas.

Figure 2. A 31% increase in deforestation in the RENCA forest area, if protected areas lose effectiveness in containing the pressure of deforestation.

Fighting against deforestation and forest protection are critical conditions for agribusiness to function, given the influence of forests on rainfall, biodiversity in crop pollination and temperature variation, especially in the Amazon region. Preservation, especially in a world under threat of climate change, is also a key part of Brazil’s ability to fulfill the commitment made in the Paris Agreement, reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases, including those from deforestation.

The role of protected areas in fighting against deforestation has historically been critical. According to a study by IPAM, the creation of 24 million hectares of areas of integral protection or sustainable use played a key role to the decline in deforestation between 2005 and 2008.

The extinction decree of RENCA goes against this history and is seen, by the Brazil Coalition, as part of a set of social and environmental setbacks. More than addressing such setbacks, it is also essential to give urgency and strengthen the implementation of the Forest Code, combating attempts such as the extension of the deadline for registration in the Environmental Rural Registry (CAR).

The extinction of the mineral reserve also adds to the risks present in the process of reviewing the regulatory framework for environmental licensing, which is being processed in Congress, that may change the environmental rules for the mining sector. The Brazilian Coalition listed principles and guidelines that need to be guaranteed in the revision of this statute to stimulate the economic activity in line with the preservation of the socioenvironmental assets.

Therefore, the Brazil Coalition requires the interruption of the national socioenvironmental setbacks scenario, which has threatened public interest agendas, such as environmental protection and the implementation of the Forest Code, and calls for the repeal of the decree until a formal process discussion and consultation on the extinction of this reserve.

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