The Brazilian Lula presents a plan to stop deforestation in the Amazon

Brazil is the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for nearly 3 percent of global emissions, according to Climate Watch, an online platform operated by the World Resources Institute. Nearly half of Brazil’s carbon emissions come from deforestation.

Lula announced that his government would adjust Brazil’s international pledges to reduce emissions, called Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, back to what they promised in 2015 under the Paris Agreement. Brazil has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 37% by 2025 and 43% by 2030. Lula’s predecessor, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, had scaled back pledges.

As part of the announcement, Lula increased a conservation unit in the Amazon by 1,800 hectares (4,400 acres), which frustrated conservationists. His government has pledged to prioritize the allocation of 57,000,000 hectares of public land without special protection, an area roughly equivalent to the size of France.

In a speech, Environment Minister Marina Silva said the federal government would create more conservation units, pending further studies and agreements with state governments.

These areas have shown greater vulnerability to deforestation, as land invaders displace traditional communities and clear the land in the hopes of gaining ownership recognition from the government.

Brazil will once again become a global benchmark in sustainability, combating climate change and achieving goals of reducing carbon emissions and zero deforestation, Lula said.

The event paid tribute to British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous affairs expert Bruno Pereira, who were killed on a trip to the Amazon a year ago. Several people have been arrested.

The new measures mark the fifth phase of a major initiative called the Action Plan to Prevent and Control Deforestation in the Legal Amazon. Created 20 years ago, during Lula’s first term, the plan was largely responsible for reducing deforestation by 83 percent between 2004 and 2012. The plan was suspended during Bolsonaro’s term.

One of the main objectives is to stimulate the so-called bioeconomy, such as managed fishing of pirarucu, the largest fish in the Amazon, and the production of acai, as an alternative to cattle breeding, responsible for most of the deforestation. The action plan also establishes measures to increase monitoring and enforcement of the law and commits to create new conservation units.

These measures are also a response to recent limitations imposed by Congress on Silva, the environment minister, who is particularly influenced by the so-called beef caucus which represents agribusiness interests.

Lula vetoed legislation passed by Congress, which aimed to allow the clearing of remaining areas of the Atlantic Forest, a coastal rainforest that has suffered significant destruction.

The agribusiness group is a well-organized political group advocating for interests in Congress, with many affiliated lawmakers, Creomar de Souza, a policy analyst and chief executive officer of consulting firm Dharma Politics, told the Associated Press. And that creates space for what happened last week: the ability that this group has within Congress to shape and enforce its agenda.

According to Suely Arajo, senior policy advisor at the Climate Observatory, the action plan is crucial for rebuilding Brazil’s environmental governance. For her, notable aspects of the plan include integrating data and systems for remote monitoring and accountability, aligning infrastructure projects with deforestation reduction goals, and rural credit policies tied to achieving zero deforestation.

However, it is still unclear how compensation for legal logging will be done, including the tools and level of private sector accountability.

It will also be necessary to fight against the serious setbacks looming on the congressional agenda, Arajo said. There will be zero deforestation if it approves destructive measures.

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