Environmentalists fear Bolsonaro policies could speed Amazon deforestation

FT News


Today we're looking at Brazil's rainforests sometimes referred to as the earth's lungs because of the carbon dioxide it absorbs and the oxygen it brings out Leslie hook environment. Correspondent spoke to Jerry Lee. Our Brazil bureau chief about fears that both in our presidency will undermine environmentalist efforts to preserve the forest and its wealth of by diversity. So Joe what's the situation at the moment. When it comes to deforestation in Brazil, the situation at the moment on deforestation is it hit a peak around two thousand eight of around twenty seven thousand square limited a year and its since come down sharply over the past ten years or so so it's much lower than it used to be. But still there's a severe persistent amount of deforestation. It's still going on mostly by illegal miners, loggers and unethical ranches, a minority we should say of agricultural produces a small minority, but still very persistent, and there's a lot of land conflict going on on the edge of Amazon. That's feeding this deforestation. Now, I understand that the Amazon rainforest contains about one hundred billion tons of carbon which is ten times global fossil fuel emissions. Can you just explain in a nutshell why the Amazon is so important to the environment? The. John. Ironically enough is the main source of emissions in Brazil because it contains much carbon. If you deforested you're unleashing that carbon into the atmosphere. So the zones a huge carbon Bank, and it serves as a major system for controlling the atmosphere, not just in South America. But also globally and one of the key points in Brazil, and one of the reasons why Brazil has tried to control deforestation from its own interest. Is that they believed that the Amazon is a source of much of the rain that feeds the tropical agricultural power of Brazil, dire Bolsonaro has said he wants to curb excessive policing by the country's environmental agency. And he's gained a lot of support from the farmers lobby. When exactly does he mean when he says that well, he talks about an industry find. So he talks about the main environmental agency Bama and the national parks agency, which is called ICM bio, he talks about these having a kind of industry funds, but I just. Oh out and find farmers for the sake of it to try to produce revenue for the federal government. And this is very popular among farmers farmers in Brazil held to account according to a forest code, which limits how much they're allowed to deforest and these limits can be quite severe up in the Amazon region. You're on the allowed to deforest twenty percent of your land in some areas in the south. It's much more relaxed in south of Brazil where widespread agriculture's being present for much longer. So he's appealing to the farmers on that account. There is a point to ease complaints. Brazil is a very bureaucratic country and environmental regulations are no different. But the danger of what he is talking about here is to try to pull Obama back from doing its job, and that could be very risky for not only the Amazon, but the other Brazilian biomass such as the Atlantic forest, which is in the southeast of Brazil, and the Suharto which is where a lot of the soy farming happens in Brazil. So in addition to reigning in Alabama's you've just described. What other measures has he talked about that would have big impacts on the environment. The regulations only embalmer these are the main ones the supervision of Obama and easy. And by these are, the major ones, but one of the other key things that he's talked about is combining the ministry of agriculture with the ministry of the environment and putting in charge of that super ministry, a farmer or an agricultural presentative in doing such a thing who'd be observing a long tradition in Brazil, which is putting the FOX in charge of the hen coop. So it would be tantamount to basically subordinating the environment to agricultural interests. And this is something that's got people very very concerned in environmental circles, if you had to sort of summarize farmers attitude toward deforestation preserving the rainforest, what our farmers views in general on these deforestation policies traumas in general in Brazil, most of them will tell you they're against further deforestation illegal deforestation. So the have the forest code, which I mentioned earlier. Which requires them to protect the streams on their properties in not deforest a minimum of vegetation. And most of them say that they respect that low. They just want to see it implemented. But the backside of that law is that it does allow deforestation. So for instance, if you are in the south of Brazil, and the limit is, for instance, twenty percent v Lyon has to be protected if you have forty percent that's forest. You can do farce out of the twenty percent. So farmers in Brazil champion, this low that they have to protect the environment. But the other side of that is that the law does actually allow a little bit of deforestation, and there's a lot of ways of sort of bending it. And if you don't have very strict supervision. Yes, very hard to sort of catch them. So I'm the boss, and our farmers are hoping that they'll get an easing of these restrictions, and they believe that if Bolsonaro can get these regulatory agencies off their backs they'll be able to do that easier with fewer fines, also if the environmental ministry is subordinated to the agriculture ministry. They believe they'll be able to get other things such as Ben sector science and other things approved more easily the danger of. Course is that if you remove the supervision, the less, ethical, farmers and other sectors of the rural community illegal loggers illegal minors. They will also take their cue, and we could see a massive increase in deforestation of the Amazon outside of Brazil. Is there a risk of consumer backlash? If Boston our eases environmental standards had one of the big risks for Brazilian agriculture. And this is why when we talk about busy Negra Celtic went up talking about a uniform group of people. So the ones who are very excited about a chance of illegally deforesting, probably smaller pharma's or less ethical operators on the frontiers of farmlands of Brazil, but the larger operators larger farmers the trading company's value these environmental protections because this allows them to sell Brazilian soya bean and Brassinne vif with some level of stamp of approval in terms of the environment. If they lose that that could be very damaging for Brazilian sales in developed countries, especially of beef. It's already big problem to trace. Products coming out of Brazil, especially mates, but also soy. And if you suddenly start to have a lot of deforestation that's gonna really cloud the Brazilian brand. The other thing that's bad for Brazil in general is I've a recent years it's actually developed a very good image in terms of its efforts to protect the environment. If it suddenly a gets the image of deforestation and the things that come with deforestation which include land conflict murder confiscation of lands from Indians genocide of Indian tribes. This is not a good thing for the Brazilian image. And it's not really good for busy and businesses. Well, that's a rather grim picture. But on a more hopeful note, Joe you've written about project to map the DNA sequences of species that are in the Amazon river basin. What are the aims of this project who are its backers? Yeah. This is a project that's being coordinated by the World Economic Forum and a Peruvian entrepreneur Fuan Carlos Castillo, Hugo and the I'm of it is to map all the biological assets of the Amazon and Cody. Defy rights of usage for industry and research is in blockchain to dual of this by twenty twenty and the idea is to try to capture it the intellectual property that's imbedded in the Amazon and try to use that commercially. But the key thing here is that the proceeds of this use should go back to the communities that live in the Amazon, the traditional communities conservation funds, and the governments that are actually in the Amazon and the way that they want to do that is that using blockchain and special contracts that will be able to trace the usage of this information around the world, and those who use it once I have proceeds once they make profit from this information will have to pay it back in some form. So it's an extremely ambitious project. A lot of scientists around the world, and it's a feel like an extension of the human genome project in the sense, it's extending that to the rest of the species on the planet. So it's a Ray of hope to them as on if it can be implemented. Wow. So how much will it cost, and is it likely to make a lot of? Money in the long term. I mean when you talk about using the block chain to return profits to local communities is this potentially a profitable enterprise in the long run. Yes. Well, let's see to go. If the costs the human genome project apparently costs four point eight billion dollars and generated sixty five dollars for the US economy for every public all of that was invested and this project the entire project that includes Amazon, which call the earth by genome project is expected to cost four point seven be into complete. And if we go by past products that have been developed out of Amazon organic material we can see that they are huge profits to be made especially in pharmaceuticals. But there are also other ways of using intellectual property that's embedded in the Amazon. If you like, for instance, there's interests to studying the traffic patterns of soldier ants to try to develop autonomous vehicles, and there are other processes in the zone that are being studied that can be used for the people think can be developed as technology. So the backers of the project cited. Proceeds could be billions of dollars in the long run. But it's just a matter of actually implementing it and seeing if it works. It's all very new that sounds like a really fascinating initiative, but all this is happening quite late in the day for the world's rainforests. Do you think there's enough time to see results and could something like this set of precedent for efforts to save forests? Elsewhere hit I think this time there's still time. Brazil has deforested twenty percent of them online for us, which is you know, when you think about the other bombs in Brazil such as the Atlantic forest. It's not much Atlantic us as almost being wiped out. So the Amazon is still there to be protected. I think it depends a lot of global pressure on Brazil as well as pressure from within Brazil. There's a lot of support within Brazil to save Amazon. So it depends a lot on people mobilizing to make sure that those unethical sectors of agriculture mining and logging and not

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