Brazil: Controversial forest law endangers Amazon

The Amazon river These unique landscapes are at stake

Apr 26, 2012

The Brazilian parliament adopted a controversial amendment to the Forest law. This decision is a disastrous signal for global environmental protection only two months before the United Nations Rio+20 environmental conference in Rio de Janeiro. At this stage, only President Dilma Rousseff can stop the “logger law” with her veto.

After postponing the vote three times, the Brazilian parliament adopted a controversial amendment to the Forest law on April 25, 2012. The legislators voted 274:184 in favor of the amendment following an eight-hour session. This decision is a disastrous signal for global environmental protection only two months before the United Nations Rio+20 environmental conference in Rio de Janeiro. At this stage, only President Dilma Rousseff can stop the “logger law” with her veto.

“Up to 76.5 million hectares of forest in Brazil – an area the size of Germany, Italy and Austria – are at stake. It would be a disaster for biodiversity, the indigenous inhabitants of the forest, and the global climate if the law were to come into force,” explained Rainforest Rescue forest expert Klaus Schenck.

Agricultural lobby wants “logger law”, population is opposed

The new law was dictated by the agricultural industry, which wants to expand into the Amazon rainforest to raise cattle and farm even more soy and sugar cane. Since 1965, the Forest law has been a cornerstone of nature conservation in Brazil. The amendment will essentially amount to an amnesty for illegal deforestation prior to 2008, and will weaken safeguards for specific forest areas. 

The debate alone was enough to prompt increased deforestation rates in certain areas of Brazil. In the state of Mato Grosso, deforestation was up 70 percent in 2011 over the previous year. This violates one of President Rousseff’s key campaign promises – to protect the Brazilian rainforest against further destruction.

The overwhelming majority of the Brazilian population is against the amendment. Since the 16th of March, 150,000 protest banners have been on display in more than ten cities, increasing pressure on politicians and President Rousseff to come out against the “logger law”. Green Party MP Sarney Filho summed up the mood of the amendment’s opponents: “Dilma, use your veto!”