Brazil’s stock market seems to be taking a tougher stance on protecting the environment. Critics say it’s just loud service

Meanwhile, more than nearly 700 civil servants working in the environmental sector have been fired or fired from their jobs since 2018, according to data from the Ministry of Economy. Last year, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon reached a record 15-year high.

But last week, the far-right leader appeared to turn around, signing an environmental decree that establishes higher fines for deforestation, illegal logging, burning, fishing and hunting.

It also introduces larger fines on repeat offenders, and changes the rules for “reconciliation” hearings between offenders and environmental agencies by setting a time limit on the offender’s ability to engage in the process before proceeding with a hearing.

The government celebrated the initiative in a statement, calling it an “important step in environmental law,” which is “fundamental to ensuring that Brazil continues to fulfill its commitments, both domestically and abroad.”

A deforested section of the Amazon rainforest is seen in Labrea, Amazona State, Brazil in September 2021.
The move seems to be the first concrete action that supports the United Nations of Bolsonaro COP 26 November promise enforce environmental protection in Brazil and stop deforestation by 2028.

But some experts view the measure with skepticism – stressing that these largely procedural changes may be just another way Bolsonaro can brag to the international community that he is taking positive steps ahead of his re-election campaign for the October 2022 presidential election. .

Raoni Rajao, a professor of social studies at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, told CNN that he believes the government is working to make itself known as green, despite its historical history.

“Although even conservatives recognize that the environmental problem is serious, the government manages to convince them (conservative voters) that Brazil is doing an excellent job in the area,” Rajao said.

Brazil's Amazon rainforest has already reached a new deforestation record this year

Those who criticize Bolsonaro’s policies, he said, are considered “unpatriotic” in the eyes of the government, which says that “international criticism (attempts) to hinder the country’s development.”

Brazil’s Ministry of the Environment told CNN that the decree was a “standard improvement in the fight against illegal environmental activities.” It stressed that the decree significantly increases fines, and advocated environmental reconciliation hearings as helping to ensure “more efficiency” in collecting them.

Since 2019, Bolsonaro has advocated for the practice of reconciliation sessions to accelerate the smooth process. Before the new decree, the environmental agency should wait to hear from the offender whether they want to have a hearing to decide whether to take their case to court – or whether they have agreed to simply pay the fine. This process could take months – or even longer, and create a massive backlog. Now, offenders have been given a deadline of up to 20 days to decide, otherwise the trial will take place without the reconciliation hearing.

But environmentalists say the option for reconciliation should not exist at all. Experts believe it was created by the Bolsonaro government to give a voice to the criminal and slow down the judicial process.

Indigenous people protest against the environmental policies of the Bolsonaro government in Brasília last year.

Raul Valle, director of WWF Brazil’s Social and Environmental Justice program, said in a statement that the hearings had achieved the opposite of their proposed goal – and instead, virtually paralyzed the process. He noted the massive backlog of cases created by the reconciliation process.

“This only increases the sense of impunity in the Amazon, which, in turn, is an incentive for those who are deforested,” he said.

From October 2019 to May 2021, almost all (98%) of the 1,154 environmental violations reported in the Amazon by Brazil’s environmental agencies were still resolved, according to a report by Climate Policy and the WWF, citing data from the federal government.

Meanwhile, an internal document from Ibama, the government’s environmental agency, obtained by data journalists from the independent public data agency Fiquem Sabendo, shows that there are more than 37,000 unpaid environmental violations fines expiring by 2024, with 5,000 of them expiring. until the end of this year.

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“As time goes on, offenders realize that the risk of punishment is low and therefore it is worthwhile to continue to use environmental resources without authorization,” Ibama’s document said.

And, in fact, fewer fines are being issued overall, said Anne Aimes, Scientific Director at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM).

From 2018 – the year Bolsonaro was elected – to 2021, the number of fines issued by the Brazilian environmental agency Ibama has decreased by 40% – to 2,534 of 4,253.

“They may be trying to show something overseas, but what we see on earth is the opposite,” Aimes said of the decree. Bolsonaro is expected to meet with US President Joe Biden at this month’s Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles for his first formal talks.

She added that the government must take a different path if it wants to take environmental crime seriously, calling the decree a “façade”.

“It is not enough to set a deadline for the (re) pacification mechanism or heavier fines,” she said.

Instead, “increase in on-the-spot command-and-control operations, strengthening of environmental agencies, and support of state agents” are necessary.

Officials from Brazil's northern para-state are inspecting a deforested area in September.

While environmental agencies remain inadequate, there has been some positive progress in the sector since last June, under the leadership of newly appointed environment minister Joaquim Leite, with environmental agencies slowly regaining their independence.

But Bolsonaro seems to be working against such initiatives, at least in his rhetoric among supporters.

Just a few months ago, speaking at an agricultural trade event in January, Bolsonaro criticized environmental fines – even praising their reduction.

“We stopped having big problems with the environmental problem, especially with the fine (s). Should it exist? Yes. But we talked and we reduced the fines in the field by more than 80%,” he said.

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