Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva last week signed a controversial law granting 67.4 million hectares (166 million acres) of Amazon rainforest land to more than 1 million illegal settlers, reports Reuters.
The law has been hotly contested for months. Supporters say it will for the first create a system of land tenure in the Brazilian Amazon, making it easier to enforce environmental laws and control future deforestation. Opponents, including some environmental groups, say the law legitimizes land-grabbing and will worsen forest clearing and violence in the region. Lula did veto a clause that favored industrial operators over small land holders, but retained other controversial parts, including a provision that allows the government to grant title to lands of less than 400 hectares (1000 acres) without verifying that the landowners actually occupies the land, offering a loophole for absentee land barons to retain holdings in small blocks.
According to the Associated Press, the new law grants deeds to holdings of less than 100 hectares (250 acres) at now cost. Plots between 100 and 400 acres (250-1000 acres) will be sold at a “symbolic cost” while blocks of 400-1500 hectares (1000-3750 acres) will be sold at market prices. Holdings from 1,500-2,500 hectares (3,750-6,250 acres) will be auctioned and larger lots will be sold after congressional approval.
Lula decision came just days after Environment Minister Carlos Minc said that forest loss from August 2008 through July 2009 will be the lowest since annual recording keeping began in 1988. The slowing in deforestation has been attributed to the global economic downturn, which reduced demand for commodities produced in the Amazon, coupled with government efforts to crack down on illegal forest clearing.
(06/22/2009) Annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell below 10,000 square kilometers for the first time since record-keeping began, reported Brazil’s Environment Minister Carlos Minc. Yesterday Minc said preliminary data from the country’s satellite-based deforestation detection system (DETER) showed that Amazon forest loss between August 2008 and July 2009 would be below 10,000 square kilometers, the lowest level in more than 20 years. Falling commodity prices and government action to crack down on illegal clearing are credited for the decline in deforestation rates.
(06/08/2009) Brazil moved a step closer to passing a controversial law that would allow landowners who illegally deforested land in the Amazon to get legal title to these holdings. Environmentalists say HB 458 — which now only needs the signature of President Lula, an avid supporter — will legitimize years of illegal colonization and may promote new deforestation.
(06/02/2009) Accounting for roughly half of tropical deforestation between 2000 and 2005, Brazil is the most important supply-side player when it comes to developing a climate framework that includes reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). But Brazil’s position on REDD contrasts with proposals put forth by other tropical forest countries, including the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, a negotiating block of 15 countries. Instead of advocating a market-based approach to REDD, where credits generated from forest conservation would be traded between countries, Brazil is calling for a giant fund financed with donations from industrialized nations. Contributors would not be eligible for carbon credits that could be used to meet emission reduction obligations under a binding climate treaty.