After U.S. exit, Brazil weighs rollback of Paris climate pledges.
Country may step back from Paris agreement
SAO PAULO | Brazil is considering measures that would roll back environmental protections and make it difficult to meet its Paris climate accord targets — a signal that another major player is stepping back from its commitments on climate change after President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the global pact.
Brazil’s Congress has already passed two measures that will dramatically reduce the size of protected environmental reserves. Lawmakers are also considering substantially relaxing environmental licensing rules for infrastructure, agricultural and industrial projects. A proposal that would change how indigenous lands are designated, potentially reducing their size and protection, is also on the table.
This comes at a time when the Amazon and Atlantic rain forests are being cut at the fastest rate in nearly a decade, and the violent struggle for control of forested land is in on the rise.
“Brazil is throwing aside the opportunity to be a leader on these questions,” said Marcio Astrini, coordinator of public policy for Greenpeace in Brazil. “It’s very hard for someone to manage to be worse than Trump on the environment, but the Brazilian government is working very hard” to do that.
Brazil was long seen as a global leader on environmental issues. As the major steward of the Amazon rain forest, its policies have a tremendous effect on global rates of carbon emissions reduction. In conjunction with Mr. Trump’s recent decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreement, Brazil’s move away from environmental regulation could jeopardize global goals.
The moves come amid political turmoil in Latin America’s largest nation. President Michel Temer is struggling to stay in office amid corruption allegations and threats of impeachment or removal by an electoral court. Amid the furor, he is trying to pass unpopular reforms he says are essential to helping Brazil’s economy shrug off a deep two-year recession.
Mr. Temer has agreed to back a series of measures promoted by Congress’ so-called “rural caucus” — a group of lawmakers representing the interests of rural landowners, including agribusiness and ranchers — in exchange for help passing his own agenda, and hopefully avoiding impeachment.
“This government is using the environmental agenda as currency,” Mr. Astrini said.
Last month, Congress passed two measures that convert around 1.4 million acres of protected land, the vast majority of it in the Amazon, into areas open to logging, mining and agricultural use. An analysis by the Institute for Amazon Environmental Research estimates the drop in protections could result in the loss of nearly 700,000 acres of forest by 2030 and lead to the release of 140 million tons of carbon dioxide.
Nilson Leitao, a federal lawmaker from the rural caucus, disputed that the measures would lead to deforestation and noted that the area was already one of the most protected in the world. “The people who live there ... they need a life, they need to produce,” he said.
One tension that has plagued Paris and past climate accords is the feeling by developing countries such as Brazil that the leading developed powers are seeking to limit fossil-fuel use only after they have completed their own industrialization phase.