The next stage of voting on Brazil’s new Forest Code—which could have devastating impacts on the Amazon—has been once again postponed before going to President Dilma Rousseff, who can either approve or veto it. The new code, which has been labelled a ‘forest protection measure,' has been so badly altered that it has become nothing more than an invitation for bulldozers and chainsaws to come to the forests.
The new forest proposal was passed by the Senate last week, and was set to be voted on this week by the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Brazil’s National Congress. However, at the Chamber meeting, the vote that was meant to happen was postponed until March 2012. While this means more time for the agribusiness sector to make even more damaging changes to the Forest Code, it also means more time to make sure President Rousseff hears the worldwide demand to protect the Amazon.
In the past week alone, 50,000 of you sent emails directly to President Rousseff urging her to use her veto power to protect the Amazon. This same demand was made by people all over the world and a wide spectrum of civil society groups, including World Wildlife Fund, Avaaz.org, and Floresta Faz a Diferença, a Brazilian coalition.
The discussions on changes to Brazil’s Forest Code have lasted more than a decade in total, including a two-year long messy legislative process in the National Congress. There have been multiple delays along the way and a last minute effort from scientists, environmentalists, religious leaders and social movements to restore sanity to the Forest Code with amendments designed to make the Code an effective measure for forest protection. Despite this, the Senate, under intense pressure from the agribusiness sector, voted to pass the new Forest Code last week and open the Amazon up for widespread destruction. The final result threatens to turn back the clock on several years of struggle against deforestation and grant amnesty to past crimes of illegal deforestation.
Inside Brazil, more than 1.5 million people have already called for action against the new Forest Code, but the fight to save the Amazon is not over. President Rousseff is still the only real chance to stop this regressive Forest Code in its tracks, before it is delivered on a silver platter to the agribusiness sector. The delay means there is more time to stop this destructive new code. We will continue to stand up for the Amazon against this threat, but we will still need your support.
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Brazil’s Senate has decided to pursue short-term gain over long-term security in a vote to do away with long standing protections for the Amazon and other key forested areas, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warned Dec. 7.
The new law, promoted by some rural and agribusiness interests, opens vast new areas of forest to agriculture and cattle ranching and extends amnesties to illegal deforestation conducted prior to 2008. Areas formerly held to be too steep or vital to the protection of watersheds and watercourses are among those now open to destruction.
Polls showed a majority of the population opposed to the revision of the Forest Code, with a vocal majority of experts warning that the new version of the law will hinder Brazil’s long-term development and not help it.
“We have a powerful minority condemning the future of millions of Brazilians, all in the name of quick financial gain,” stated WWF-Brazil’s CEO, Maria Cecilia Wey de Brito. “No thought has been given to the social and economic costs of destroying our forests. The Senate has adopted, once again, the outdated and false notion that conservation and development are somehow at odds, something we know is not true.”
If signed into law by Brazil President Dilma Rousseff, the changes will jeopardize Brazil’s significant environmental achievements of recent years and severely undermine global efforts to fight climate change and halt biodiversity loss. The changes are also expected to expose poor Brazilians to larger risks from floods and droughts.
Brazil has committed to 2020 targets of a nearly 40 percent cut in its growth curve of greenhouse gas emissions and a reduction of Amazon deforestation levels by 80 percent compared to average rates registered for the period of 1996-2005. These are commitments of global interest, now almost certainly out of reach because of the revisions to the Forest Code.
The Senate decision also comes in the midst of international climate talks in Durban, South Africa, and precedes Brazil’s hosting of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, in June 2012. Brazil’s credibility as it hosts this and other key global events (2014 World Cup, 2016 Summer Olympics) will be severely compromised if it passes environmental legislation favoring deforestation of the Amazon and other globally-important regions, WWF warned.
“WWF-Brazil has gone along with the legislative processes, has worked with others to help bring science to the political debate and has defined common points with good agribusiness and others,” said Wey de Brito. “Now we must urge President Rousseff to consider the severe implications of signing the revisions into law, including irreparable harm to Brazil’s natural resources, its economic development, and to the future health and well-being of millions of Brazilians and billions of people around the world.”
WWF-Brazil is supported by WWF’s entire international network in urging President Rousseff to act in Brazil’s interests rather than a sectional interest—noting that the president has already said she would not support an amnesty for illegal deforestation.
“We're at a time in history when the world seeks leadership in smart, forward-thinking development,” said WWF International Director-General Jim Leape. “Brazil was staking a claim to being such a leader.
“It will be a tragedy for Brazil and for the world if it now turns its back on more than a decade of achievement to return to the dark days of catastrophic deforestation.”
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