Brazil’s forest code vote delayed again


Brazil's vote on a revision forest code has been postponed again.

Brazil’s vote on a revision forest code has been postponed again.

After nearly three days of heated debate and political posturing in the Chamber of Deputies over the bill, which could change how Brazil’s wilderness areas are managed, Brazil’s Congress said it will delay the vote until next Thursday, May 19. If the bill passes, it would then move to the Senate before going to President Dilma Rousseff, who said during her campaign she will not enact policies that undermine Brazil’s commitment to protecting the Amazon.

The bill would reform the 1965 forest code which requires landowners to keep a substantial proportion of their land forested — 80 percent in the Amazon rainforest, and 20 to 35 percent in the Cerrado grassland. The agricultural sector wants to reduce the proportion of protected land, arguing that few landowners are currently in compliance with the law. The Brazilian government sees reform as a potential lever to improve governance in the vast Amazon region. But environmentalists fear weakening the code effectively grant amnesty to deforesters while enabling more forest clearing. They note that the Brazilian government has shown little capacity or political will to enforce environmental laws.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has steadily declined since 2004, falling to its lowest level on record last year. Analysts attribute the drop to better law enforcement, new protected areas, private sector initiatives, new government policies, and macroeconomic trends, including a strong Brazilian real which makes Brazilian exports more expensive in foreign markets. Still environmentalists fear that deforestation could increase with new investments in infrastructure. Furthermore there are concerns that climate change could take a heavy toll on the Amazon, which has experienced the two worst droughts on record in the past five years. Droughts lead to direct die-off and leave rainforest vulnerable to fire.

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(05/05/2011) Brazil’s forest code may be about to get an overhaul. The federal code, which presently requires landowners in the Amazon to keep 80 percent of their land forest (20-35% in the cerrado), is widely flouted, but has been used in recent years as a lever by the government to go after deforesters. For example, the forest code served as the basis for the “blacklists” which restricted funds for municipalities where deforestation has been particularly high. To get off the blacklist, and thereby regain access to finance and markets, a municipality must demonstrate its landowners are in compliance with environmental laws.

Future threats to the Amazon rainforest

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