Brazil breaks vow to tackle deforestation in the Amazon
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has approved a cut to the environment
ministry budget a day after he vowed to boost spending to tackle
deforestation. At a US-led climate summit, he promised to double
the money reserved for environmental enforcement and to
end illegal deforestation by 2030.
But the budget signed off on Friday did not include his spending pledge,
or additional proposals made by Congress.
His government has weakened protections and wants to develop
protected areas. Critics say the president’s promises on Thursday were
linked to a controversial deal Brazil is negotiating with the US to
receive financial aid in return for protecting the Amazon,
the world’s largest rainforest, and other areas.
Late on Friday, Environment Minister Ricardo Salles said he had requested
the economy ministry to review the numbers and fulfil the pledge made by
President Bolsonaro at the virtual climate summit hosted by
US President Joe Biden. The environmental policies of President Bolsonaro,
who is supported by powerful agribusiness leaders, have drawn
widespread condemnation. The far-right leader has encouraged agriculture
and mining in the Amazon, and rolled back environmental legislation.
Activists and indigenous groups say environmental enforcement remains
underfunded, and denounce the impunity for illegal logging and mining
in protected areas.
The president rejects the criticism, saying Brazil remains an example
for conservation. But at Thursday’s summit he attempted to strike
a more conciliatory tone, and also promised that Brazil would reach
zero carbon emissions by 2050, 10 years earlier than previously agreed.
Brazilian and US officials have been discussing the possibility of collaborating
to stop the destruction of the Amazon. Politicians and environmentalists
have warned that the Bolsonaro government should show results first
before any financial commitment is made.
Earlier this week, a group of 35 US and Brazilian celebrities voiced their
opposition to a deal with Brazil, saying it risked legitimising a government
that was encouraging environmental destruction.
The document followed another letter in which more than 200 Brazilian
groups told President Biden that the Bolsonaro government was an
“enemy” of the Amazon and that it did not have legitimacy to represent Brazil.
Last week, the environment minister said the country would need $1bn in
foreign aid to support efforts to reduce deforestation in the
Amazon by 30% to 40% in a year.