By Dr Seema Javed
The Federal Supreme Court of Brazil (STF) has scheduled for March 30th a session to judge seven lawsuits related to climate change and environmental protection.
This is the first time the court will hear so many cases from the climate and environmental agenda in a single session. The “green agenda”, as the Court’s initiative is being called, was arranged because of a large protest held in Brasília on March 8 and led by 40 Brazilian artists, including Caetano Veloso, Daniela Mercury and Nando Reis.
Deforestation in the Amazon continues to grow at high rates – despite the fact that the Brazilian government has committed to an agreement on forests at COP26, Deforestation numbers in the Amazon continue to grow out of control. The month of January, which usually has low deforestation rates due to the typical heavy rains, had record rates this year.
Deforestation in Brazil, although widespread, is concentrated in a small number of environmental criminals with access to large portions of land. New study shows that only 176 properties were responsible for over half of all illegal deforestation in soybean farms in Mato Grosso, one of the champion states in deforestation. Of those, most (85%) are large properties, with an area of over 1,500 hectares.
Brazil’s weak environment enforcement means that other nations and international businesses become accomplices in the illegal destruction of the Amazon. Recent investigations published in the New York Times, the Guardian and Reporter Brasil show how easy it is for illegally produced meat, leather and gold to be “laundered” into legality and sold to clients around the world.
In response to this, the EU, the UK and the US, as well as California and New York, are debating Due Diligence Obligation laws that would require purchasers to prove the commodities they buy are not driving deforestation. But if the purview of these laws focuses only on “illegal deforestation”, they might create perverse incentives for Brazil to continue to legalize the destruction of its forests.
According to the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), forest clearing in the Amazon region over a three-year period under Bolsonaro administration, from August 2018 to July 2021, was 56.6% higher than in the same previous three-year period. São 32.740 km² de floresta destruída, área maior do que o território da Bélgica. There are 32,740 km² of the destroyed forest, an area larger than the territory of Belgium. ‘Land Grab’ Bill (PL 510/2021), which pardons and encourages those who appropriate public lands. According to specialists, this is one of the main drivers of deforestation in the Amazon, where more than 30% of the unallocated federal public laws that would be the object of this law are located.
Maurício Guetta, the legal consultant for ISA (Instituto Socioambiental), said:- “This is a historic judgment that could project Brazil towards a sustainable future. It is possible that not all the actions will be effectively judged on the same day or that some minister may request more time to study the case, which could postpone a final decision. Even so, the agenda carries an important political message.”
“Our reading is that this is a response by the Court to the anxieties of Brazilian society and the global community to guarantee environmental protection and confront the climate emergency.”
Dr Seema Javed
Communicator for Climate Change