Brazil’s President Rousseff should veto disastrous Forest Code

EDF joined the chorus of Brazilian and global environmental groups in calling for Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff to veto the revisions of the country’s main forest protection legislation passed last night by the House of Representatives that, if signed into law, would severely roll back environmental protection for the Amazon forest and other threatened ecosystems.

Brazil's Congress has sent President Dilma Rousseff the Forest Code, which would essentially legalize deforestation on vast areas of land. Rousseff can veto parts of or all of the law. (Photo credit to Flickr user dilmarousseff)

By giving amnesty for past illegal deforestation and opening up new land for deforestation, the Forest Code would essentially legalize deforestation on vast amounts of land.

This is a big problem, because global emissions from deforestation contribute about 15% of greenhouse gas emissions — as much as all the world’s cars, trucks, ships and airplanes combined — and Brazil is home to about 40% of the world’s rain forests.

Brazil’s relatively recent success in reducing deforestation in the Amazon has made it a global leader in reducing carbon emissions, but if President Rousseff approves the House-passed law, the country risks reversing that trend.

EDF’s Director of Tropical Forest Policy, Steve Schwartzman said Brazil’s historic achievement in reducing deforestation in the Amazon nearly 80% since 2005 is at serious risk:

Brazil’s Forest Code has been instrumental in the country’s success in curbing carbon emissions, but President Rousseff is now faced with a deeply flawed, probably unenforceable law that would offer near-total amnesty for past illegal deforestation.

Brazilians overwhelmingly support stopping deforestation in the Amazon. About 85% of them want Amazon deforestation to stop no matter what, according to a public opinion poll taken in the last year.

Schwartzman said:

President Rousseff should respect the views of the vast majority of the Brazilian public that wants an end to Amazon deforestation and veto this bill.

Rousseff, from as far back as her presidential campaign, has repeatedly declared she would not accept legislation that amnesties past illegal deforestation. Brazilian law gives her as president the right to veto parts or all of the bill.

Given Brazil’s position as host of June’s global Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, and with the great importance of the Forest Code to the country’s forests and the world’s climate, all eyes are on President Rousseff’s next move.

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