São Paulo and Brasilia  –   More than 60 civil society organizations and networks, including International Rivers, delivered this Thursday (August 6) to members of the Brazilian Congress, foreign investors and European parliamentarians a letter proposing five emergency measures to contain the deforestation crisis in the Brazilian Amazon. One of the measures is the establishment of a moratorium of at least five years on any forest clearing in the region. 

Deforestation and Burning in the western Brazilian Amazon | Photo by: Brent Millikan

The devastation in 2020 is already at the highest level since the beginning of the series of alerts provided by the official satellite monitoring system of Brazil’s National Space Agency (INPE), and may be the greatest since 2006. The explosion of clear cutting practices and threats to indigenous peoples during the Bolsonaro administration led foreign investors to threaten to withdraw investments from the country.

In the letter, the organizations state that Brazil, at the beginning of the century, managed to reduce the rate of deforestation, while, at the same time, expanding agricultural production and the GDP.

“The current government, however, does not appear to have any interest or capability to follow this path”, states the document. “Its actions are based on fallacious measures and advertising campaigns that try to mask the reality of the facts. Not even sending military forces to the Amazon has generated effective results.”

The five proposed emergency measures also include, in addition to the deforestation moratorium, the tightening of penalties for environmental crimes, including the freezing of assets of the 100 largest illegal loggers in the Amazon; the immediate resumption of the PPCDAm — the deforestation control plan that was in force for five presidential terms until it was shelved by Jair Bolsonaro; the demarcation of indigenous lands, the issuing of property titles covering quilombola territories and the creation of conservation units covering 10 million hectares; as well as the restructuring of Ibama, ICMBio and Funai, which have been fragmented by the current administration, with jobs being distributed according to political interests.

The deforestation moratorium has exceptions: traditional peoples’ subsistence activities, family farming and sustainable wood management plans, for example, would still be admitted.

“All the measures listed in the letter are doable. Some of them are even constitutional obligations, which the government is not fulfilling”, said Marcio Astrini, the executive secretary of Observatório do Clima, one of the signatory networks. “The objective is to resolve an acute situation in which the patient — in this case, the Amazon — is at a life-or-death condition and, then, to discuss the structural measures that will allow the patient to recover. Some of them, by the way, were already included in the plan for the prevention and control of deforestation that has been abandoned by the Bolsonaro administration.”Deforestation and Burning in the western Brazilian AmazonPhoto: Brent Millikan

FIVE EMERGENCY MEASURES TO FIGHT THE DEFORESTATION CRISIS IN THE AMAZON

Amazon Forest destruction reached 10,129 km2 between August 2018 and July 2019, an increase of 34% over the previous period. In 2020, official data point to a new high, at a similar level. This scenario is accompanied by an increase in violence, forest fires, the expansion of irregular mining, the growth of public land grabbing and other illegal activities, especially invasions of indigenous lands and protected areas.

Among the reasons for this situation is the irresponsible stance adopted by the President of Brazil, who has embraced a perverse and overtly anti-environmental and anti-indigenous agenda, attacking the Constitution itself. As a consequence, investors and international companies threaten to withdraw their business from Brazil, which would intensify the current economic crisis and threaten jobs, aggravating the country’s inequality and poverty.

In the past, Brazil was able to reduce the rate of deforestation in the Amazon and, at the same time, promote an increase in agricultural production and exports, generating jobs and economic growth. The current government, however, does not appear to have any interest or capability to follow this path. Its actions are based on fallacious measures and advertising campaigns that try to mask the reality of the facts. Not even sending military forces to the Amazon has generated effective results.

The solution to the current crisis will not come from the adoption of theatrical measures. The organizations that subscribe this letter understand that rigorous actions are needed to face such acute crisis. Below are five emergency lines of action that we believe should be implemented as soon as possible:

1. Moratorium on deforestation in the Amazon

• Prohibition of any deforestation in the Amazon for at least five (5) years, with exceptions made for subsistence agriculture and practices of traditional populations, smallholder agriculture, sustainable forestry, works of public utility and national security issues.

2. Increased penalties for environmental crimes and deforestation

• Increase in penalties for illegal deforestation and for the actions of those who order and finance environmental and land crimes, as well as illegal invasion and commercialization of public lands.

• Creation of a task force to suppress land crimes, especially land grabbing and invasion of public lands.

• Creation of a task force to ensure the eviction of invaders and the cessation of all illegal activities in territories occupied by traditional peoples and communities, mainly indigenous lands and the surrounding areas, such as land grabbing, deforestation, theft of wood, mining, livestock and illegal mining.

• Immediate freezing of assets of the country’s 100 biggest forest offenders.

• Extreme rigor in the application of the provisions of t he Environmental Crimes Law (Law No. 9,605/1998 and Decree No. 6,514/2008), including the banning of violators and the destruction of equipment used in the practice of environmental crimes.

3. Immediate resumption of PPCDAm – Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon

• Immediate resumption of the government measures and actions provided for in the four axes of the PPCDAm (Land and Territorial Planning; Monitoring and Control; Promotion of Sustainable Productive Activities; Economic and Regulatory Instruments). This resumption would need to include guaranteed resources, targets, timetables and detailed implementation plans, with transparent accountability and social participation.

4. Demarcation of indigenous and quilombola lands and creation, regularization and protection of Conservation Units

• Immediate Presidential recognition decrees for indigenous lands that have already been demarcated.

• Immediate demarcation of indigenous areas whose processes are pending actions to be taken by the Federal Government.

• Protection of all indigenous lands, regardless of their regularization stage, with special attention to lands occupied by peoples in voluntary isolation or those subject to recent contact.

• Implementation and effective consolidation of the conservation units (such as parks, national forests, and extractive reserves) that have already been created.

• Creation of conservation units covering 10 million hectares, according to the map of priority conservation areas, integrated management sites and new strategic areas for the conservation of biodiversity and combating deforestation.

• Issuing of property titles to those who live in quilombola (maroon) territories. Recognition and regularization of quilombola territories that have been subject to claims.

5. Restructuring of Ibama, ICMBio and Funai.

• Restoring the institutional powers and authority of Ibama and ICMBio, so that they can resume their role in the fight against deforestation and environmental crimes.

• Urgently holding competitive examinations to hire environmental agents for Ibama and ICMBio, primarily in environmental inspection activities.

• Replacement of the managers of the three agencies, who are not technically qualified to occupy such positions, by specialized personnel.

• Restitution of Funai’s institutional responsibilities, aimed at protecting and promoting indigenous rights, mainly related to the demarcation and protection of indigenous lands.

These emergency measures must be implemented without prejudice to structural policies, such as programs and projects aimed at the achievement of sustainable development, the resumption of the activities of the Amazon Fund and of the Climate Fund, pacts with the productive sector and the reinforcement of green investments, most of which are already included in the PPCDAm itself.

Signed by:

1. Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil – APIB

2. Observatório do Clima

3. Coordenação Nacional de Articulação das Comunidades Negras Rurais Quilombolas – CONAQ

4. Articulação Nacional de Agroecologia – ANA

5. Conselho Nacional das Populações Extrativistas – CNS

6. Central Única dos Trabalhadores – CUT

7. Associação Brasileira de Organizações não Governamentais – ABONG

8. Fórum Brasileiro de ONGs e Movimentos Sociais para o Meio Ambiente e o Desenvolvimento – FBOMS

9. Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – MST

10. Grupo Carta de Belém

11. Rede Brasileira de Educação Ambiental – REBEA

12. Rede GTA – Grupo de Trabalho Amazônico

13. GT Infraestrutura

14. APREMAVI

15. Instituto Socioambiental – ISA

16. WWF Brasil

17. Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos – INESC

18. Instituto do Homem e Meio Ambiente da Amazônia – Imazon

19. Instituto de Manejo e Certificação Florestal e Agrícola – Imaflora

20. FASE – Solidariedade e Educação

21. Projeto Hospitais Saudáveis

22. Uma gota no oceano

23. SOS Amazonas

24. Instituto de Desenvolvimento Sustentável da Amazônia – Idesam

25. Mater Natura

26. Engajamundo

27. APREC – Ecossistemas Costeiros

28. Climainfo

29. Instituto Democracia e Sociedade – IDS

30. Instituto Centro de Vida – ICV

31. Instituto Internacional de Educação do Brasil – IIEB

32. Amigos da Terra – Amazônia Brasileira

33. 350.org

34. Projeto Saúde e Alegria

35. BVRio

36. Grupo de Estudos em Educação e Meio Ambiente – GEEMA

37. Rede de Educadores Ambientais da Baixada de Jacarepaguá

38. Elo RJ – Rede de Mulheres Ambientalistas da América Latina

39. Comitê Chico Mendes

40. Terra de Direitos

41. Memorial Chico Mendes

42. Associação Etnoambiental Kanindé

43. Defensores do Planeta

44. Associação Agroecologia Tijupá

45. Argonautas Ambientalistas da Amazônia (Belém-PA)

46. Rede de Educação Ambiental e Políticas Públicas – REAPOP (Nacional)

47. Teko Porã Amazônia (Belém-PA)

48. Amazon Watch

49. Greenpeace Brasil

50. Rede de Educação Ambiental da Bahia – REABA

51. Associação Cultural APA Itacaré Serra Grande

52. Associação Alternativa Terrazul

53. Toxisphera – Associação de Saúde Ambiental

54. Associação de Defesa do Meio Ambiente de Araucária – AMAR

55. Movimento SOS Cerrado

56. Rede de Educação Ambiental do Paraná

57. International Rivers

58. Rede de Educação Ambiental da Costa Verde

59. Rede de Educação Ambiental do RJ – REARJ

60. Operação Amazônia Nativa – OPAN

61. Fundação Amazônia Sustentável – FAS

Featured image: Amazon burning | Photo by International Rivers

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