Brazil: 'zero deforestation' push
Following a three-year campaign, Greenpeace Brazil activists formally presented a petition signed by 1.4 million Brazilians to the country's congress, calling for legislation establishing a "zero deforestation" polcy. "We submit this bill to Congress and now it's time for them to reflect on the will of the people. There is enough space for development without cutting down more of our forests." The annual rate of Amazon forest loss in Brazil has slowed by 75% since the early 2000s, but roughly 5,000 square kilometers (1.2 million acres) of rainforest is still destroyed every year. Some lawmakers have signed on to the proposal. "I signed the petition in 2012 and I admit that I was anxious to see it completed," Sen. João Capiberibe said in a statement. "This is certainly an important step toward the objective of zero deforestation in Brazil and then beginning a new project for developing the country, one that is not based on environmental destruction."
A recent analysis by Paulo Moutinho of Brazil's Amazon Environmental Research Institute and Steve Schwartzman of the Environmental Defense Fund supports the Greenpeace assertion that zero deforestation is entirely possible for Brazil to achieve without foregoing economic growth. "Brazil succeeded in reducing Amazon deforestation by more than 80% since 2005 while maintaining robust growth in beef and soy production," Moutinho and Schwarzman write. "There are at least about 56,000 km² of degraded cattle pasture in the Amazon that can be reclaimed for agriculture, as well as ample scope for intensifying cattle raising and improving yields, freeing up even more land."
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has pledged to eliminate illegal deforestation and restore 12 million hectares (about 30 million acres) of forest by 2030 as part of broader efforts to combat climate change. But zero illegal deforestation by 2030 is a "considerably less ambitious goal”" than what many Brazilian states have already proposed for themselves, Moutinho and Schwarzman assert.
Pará, for example, a major agricultural state, has adopted a target of 80% deforestation reduction by 2020 and zero net deforestation thereafter. And Acre state, which still retains nearly 90% of its original forest cover, "is already implementing the most ambitious and successful system of payment for environmental services in the tropical world focusing on forest conservation," Moutinho and Schwarzman write. (Mongabay, Oct. 13)
But Greenpeace and its allies appear to be in a race with another legislative measure that could dramatically accelerate deforestation: Proposed Constititional Amendment 215, or PEC 215. The amendment, which failed to pass last year, would transfer responsibility for demarcation of indigenous territories from the executive to legislative branch, where the land barons have far more power. Conservative lawmakers are now pushing to revive the measure. On Nov. 11, a delegation of a dozen indigenous leaders from across the Brazilian Amazon met with Government Minister Ricardo Berzoini to express their opposition to PEC 215. (Jornal do Brasil, Nov. 11; Intercontinental Cry, Sept. 2)
After more than 10 years of decline, the rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has again begun to increase in the past three years.