Several environmental entities launch a judicial offensive against the policies of the Bolsonaro government | International

Environment Minister Ricardo Salles at a ceremony in Brasilia.
Environment Minister Ricardo Salles at a ceremony in Brasilia.Adriano Machado / Reuters

The World Environment Day, celebrated this Friday, was marked in Brazil by a legal offensive launched against the environmental policies of the Government of Jair Bolsonaro. The Brazilian Association of Members of the Public Ministry of the Environment (Abrampa), several political parties and a group of non-governmental organizations have filed three actions before the Federal Supreme Court and the Federal Justice questioning the attitudes and omissions of the Ministry of the Environment. The portfolio is in charge of Ricardo Salles, who a few days ago caused outrage when he stated at a meeting of ministers that the coronavirus pandemic was an “opportunity” to relax environmental laws.

The legal offensive of environmental entities was based on documents compiled by the Observatoire do Clima, a network of 50 civil society organizations, and calls for the annulment of a rule that would authorize, in practice, the export of wood extracted from Brazilian forests without any type of inspection. On another front, they accuse the Government of omission and demand that the funds that help preserve the environment, such as the Amazon Fund and the Climate Fund, be resumed.

According to the entities, the Government “served the loggers” and stopped applying the law on wood exports, in addition to putting the Amazon rainforest and the global climate at risk by freezing the Amazon Fund and the National Fund on Climate Change. “Civil society is going to do its part to guarantee environmental protection. We hope that the Judiciary will also do theirs and prevent Salles from taking advantage of the situation to approve measures against the environment, ”says Maurício Guetta, legal consultant at the Socio-environmental Institute.

“These processes are responses to the environmental destruction plans that the minister revealed at the meeting of ministers. We go to Justice so that the Government’s plans do not materialize. These are only the first actions, because the Government is a factory of producing harmful situations for the environmental area and illegalities, ”said Márcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Observatory of Climate, at a press conference.

Wood export

The first of the briefs presented this Friday is a public civil action (demand for collective and diffuse interests) against the Government and the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) and demands the annulment of the resolution issued by the president of the institute, Eduardo Bim, who plans the inspection of native woods after export (a posteriori). In other words, in practice, they could be marketed even without prior inspection. According to the entities, the document was signed 20 days after the Association of Wood Exporters of the State of Pará (Aimex) requested the end of the inspections, alleging that they were “complicated” and “obsolete”. At the time, the IBAMA technical area issued an opinion contrary to said commercialization. Bim, however, disregarded the document and the main author of the report was fired.

The second and third brief are unconstitutional remedies for omission by the Government, which require the recovery of the Amazon and Climate Funds. These actions have been brought by political parties. Salles dissolved the two committees of the Amazon Fund in 2019, claiming that the NGO contracts had “indications of irregularities” and that the decrease in deforestation – the Fund’s general objective a decade ago – was an “interpretive” result in the analyzes presented In the reports, his attempts to recreate the committees controlling their composition were rejected by Norway and Germany, the countries that contribute the most resources. In an attempt to reactivate donations from the two European countries, Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourão created a committee without Minister Salles.

According to the entities, in the Amazon Fund there are 1,500 million reais (about 300 million dollars) unemployed since January last year, an amount that could be being used in the fight against deforestation. The rate of forest destruction has increased since May of last year. “With this, the Federal Government, which always uses the lack of money to justify its inaction in environmental policy and in actions aimed at the climate issue, stops using resources,” the group said in a statement. Regarding the Climate Fund, established in 2009, there was also an available endowment that was not allocated, according to the entities involved in the legal actions. In 2019, there was a budgetary authorization for the application of 8,050 million reais ($ 1.62 million) non-reimbursable in the promotion of studies, projects and ventures. However, at the end of the year, just over 718,000 reais ($ 155,000) were allocated, according to the entities. As for the reimbursable resources, managed by BNDES, the Brazilian Development Bank, there were more than 500 million reais ($ 100 million) available but only about 348,000 ($ 70,000) were allocated.

“It is stopped money that had to be invested in the fight against deforestation. We have a goal of zero illegal deforestation between now and 2030, ”said federal deputy Rodrigo Agostinho, from the Brazilian Socialist Party), at a press conference.

Until the moment of this publication, the Ministry of the Environment has not responded to the questions formulated by EL PAÍS regarding the processes filed by the entities. On Twitter, President Bolsonaro also remembered Environment Day, affirming that Brazil is the country “that preserves the environment the most in the world. Unfairly, the most attacked, “he wrote.

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