Failure to value the importance of the environment puts all at risk

Society has the right to its heritage and must not relinquish its natural capital.

The elections are nearly upon us. This is a challenging time for Brazilians and for Brazil. It is time to unite to protect the environment, a right and heritage of the whole of Brazilian society.

Brazil has the largest biodiversity in the world as well as beautiful natural landscapes that attract thousands of tourists every year. The future and the development of the country also depend on the efficient management of its natural capital. The world’s largest continuous area of tropical forest can be found here and this helps to regulate the climate, produce water, store carbon in the trees, preserve the richness of the soil for agriculture, reduce the risk of natural disasters, among many other functions. Brazil cannot relinquish its protection of the environment which is set out in the 1988 Constitution.

To a great extent, the Brazilian economy is connected to global markets and depends on the balance between production and environmental protection in order to thrive. Setbacks in the environmental agenda of the country could represent enormous risks to the reputation of Brazilian companies and producers, with Brazil diametrically opposed to the global movement of transitioning to low carbon emission economies.

The Ministry for the Environment (MMA) and its bodies have a central role in applying a wide range of environmental policies, not only those that affect the farming sector. They also include, among others, the conservation of Brazilian biomes, the protection of biodiversity and combatting biopiracy, combatting illegal deforestation and other environmental crimes. In addition, they define and implement protected areas, control the different types of pollution and solid residue, manage water resources, analyse the sustainability of business ventures with environmental impact and fight climate change.

The possible extinction of the Ministry for the Environment and its merge with the Ministry of Agriculture, Cattle Farming and Supplies (MAPA) as well as the draining of the functions of its bodies, for example the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) and the Chico Mendes Institute for Conservation and Biodiversity (ICMBio), would lead to unprecedented violation of the whole National System for the Environment, based on the National Environment Policy of 1981.

The subordination of these functions to the category of agriculture, as well as demonstrating an obvious lack of understanding of the subject, would cause an insurmountable conflict of interests and would jeopardise four decades of progress in environmental protection. The elimination of environmental licencing, one of the main tools of environmental policy and the increased use of agrotoxins in Brazil, with the dismantling of the National Agency for Health Surveillance (ANVISA) and the removal of IBAMA’s role in evaluating impacts on the health of the population and on the environment, would expose Brazilian society as a whole to irreversible damage.

The announcement of the possibility that Brazil may leave the Paris Agreement is foolish and demonstrates disdain for one of the most important treaties for the protection of the environment, for current and future generations. It could cause enormous diplomatic and commercial harm to the country. Over 95% of Brazilian citizens believe that climate change already affects Brazil. [1]  Leaders from all over the planet, following the example of the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, warn that the world is running the risk of irreversible damage in the face of climate change, with disastrous consequences for the entire world population and the natural systems that sustain it [2].

Moreover, the proposal to expose indigenous land, quilombola territory and conservation areas to mining, farming and other activities of impact, disregards their fundamental role in the physical and cultural survival of traditional people and communities as well as for environmental balance. These are among the areas which have been most successfully preserved in Brazil.

To defend the end of activism – including of the environment – is an affront to the Federal Constitution and to democracy, which guarantee the right to expression, organisation, protest and social mobilisation in defending rights. This is even more serious given Brazil’s record position in the world for the murder of environmental defenders.

These measures, in contravention of the Constitution, could lead to a marked increase in, the already intense, deforestation of Amazônia, the Cerrado, the coastal rainforest and other Brazilian biomes. If this happens, the whole country will suffer, not only because we will irreversibly lose our flora and fauna, but also because rainfall on the whole of the South American continent depends on the remaining rainforest, which is responsible, for example, for the irrigation of Brazilian agricultural plantations and for supplying the reservoirs of the South-east, North-east and Centre-west regions. Brazilian scientists warn that if Amazonian deforestation reaches between 20% and 25% (current total deforestation is 19%), the rainforest will reach “the point of no return”, from which stage its equilibrium as a whole will be modified, as it goes through an irreparable process of savannisation and loses its ecosystem services [3]. In addition, the sources of the most important Brazilian rivers, such as the Paraná, Tocantins and São Francisco are located in the Cerrado where deforestation is already over 50%. As well as all the environmental risks, the adoption of the proposal in question will have negative impacts in terms of Brazil’s commercial relations with other countries around the world [4].

In the face of the gravity of this scenario, in terms of socioenvironmental issues, the organisations signing this statement are warning Brazilian society and the worldwide community of the concrete, irreversible risks to which they are exposed. The environment is a serious issue. It concerns our quality of life and the world we leave behind for our children, irrespective of our way of thinking, acting or engaging in the struggle. Its protection constitutions a fundamental right of the whole of Brazilian society and as such is a non-partisan issue. The next President of the Republic has a duty to recognise and to commit to the protection of society’s environmental victories. It is vital that we are guided by the Constitution and do not stray from it.

Signed by:
Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (Apib)
Centro de Trabalho Indigenista (CTI)
Conectas Direitos Humanos
Coordenação das Organizações Indígena da Amazônia Brasileira (Coiab)
Ecologia e Ação (ECOA)
Federação das Reservas Ecológicas Particulares do Estado de São Paulo
Frente por uma Nova Política Energética
Fórum de Mudanças Climáticas e Justiça Social
Fórum Mato-grossense de Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento (FORMAD)
Grupo Ambientalista da Bahia (Gamba)
GT Infraestrutura
Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV)
Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos (Inesc)
Instituto de Pesquisa e Formação Indígena (Iepé)
Instituto Ethos
Instituto Internacional de Educação do Brasil (IEB)
Instituto Sociedade, População e Natureza (ISPN)
Instituto Socioambiental (ISA)
International Rivers Network (IRN)
Observatório do Clima
Operação Amazônia Nativa (OPAN)
Rede Cerrado
Rede de Cooperação Amazônica (RCA)
Rede de ONGs da Mata Atlântica (RMA)
Rede Pantanal
SOS Mata Atlântica
Terra de Direitos

Find out more

Receive Conectas updates by email