Evolving laws put Brazil’s environment in danger whilst eyes are on the pandemic

Evolving laws put Brazil’s environment in danger whilst eyes are on the pandemic

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The Brazilian government has been accused of loosening environmental protections under the cover of the COVID pandemic, according to a new study by Biological Conservation. From January 2019, the Brazilian government approved 57 parts of legislation that weaken national environmental laws. 27 of these were passed between March and September 2020 when attention was diverted to the pandemic, the data from the Official Gazette of the Union found.

The changing laws range from decreasing the amount of biodiesel added to Brazilian diesel by 2 per cent, to allowing mining in areas before final authorisation from competent authorities. A June 2020 legislation also abolished the necessity for restoring all permanent conservation areas, including those illegally deforested.

Previous environmental concerns took a backburner as fines for illegal deforestation fell by 72 per cent despite an increase in deforestation rates.

In an interview with SciDev.Net, Brazilian biologist and Oxford University researcher, Erika Berenguer, said that a weakening of environmental standards was expected.

She added: “I imagined that it would be concentrated in some areas, such as less control of deforestation, but the data shows another scenario.

“It makes no sense that military personnel without technical knowledge can head environmental agencies.”

In April 2020, environment minister, Ricardo Salles, said that environmental laws had to be loosened as much as possible “while the media were only concerned about Covid-19”.

Salles took office under President Bolsonaro in January 2019 and has been convicted of administrative irregularity for altering zoning maps around the Tiete River in December 2018.

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Jill Lupupa

Jill is a practised culture & current affairs writer, editor and soon to be NCTJ-qualified journalist.