Temer and the Brazilian Amazon / by Mark Langevin

Brazilian President Michel Temer has stepped back from the country’s commitment to protect the Amazon. Economic recession has pushed people toward the frontier, some in search of work and others in search of exploitative opportunities left by a government unwilling or incapable of enforcing the law. Temer’s government appears to be unwilling to take the necessary measures to combat deforestation.

According to the World Resources Institute, Brazilian deforestation spiked up to 29 percent in 2017. Even though the annual rate is well below historic highs, it signals that the federal government is turning its back on environmental protection and international commitments.

Temer’s willing neglect has consequences. The government of Norway, sponsor of the Amazon Fund, recently announced a cutback in funding of more than $35 million USD due to the “rise in forest destruction.” According to Reuters,

“Norway has invested more than $1.1 billion in an Amazon Fund since 2008 to help Brazil protect the forests, which are under threat from logging and their conversion to farmland.”

Temer responded that

“Brazil was working to protect the Amazon, for example, by expanding national parks.”

However, reasonable people would conclude otherwise. The Financial Times quotes the World Wildlife Federation to report that Temer and his government are poised to pass a new law that opens up the Jamanxim national forest in the state of Pará to the private sector. Temer’s Minister of the Environment, José Sarney Filho, has also reassured landowners in the Jamanxim area that the government is committed to opening up the forest reserve, even though Temer vetoed earlier legislation that would have reduced national forests by 600,000 hectares.

Temer does need to find ways to reboot the Brazilian economy, but risking further deforestation and the support of the government of Norway does not seem like a sensible alternative, especially as the world’s attention is turned toward the “carne fraca” scandal that calls into question Brazilian law enforcement and regulatory control over the production of agricultural exports. Temer should work with both producers, environmentalists, and residents near the forest reserves to path together policies and programs that expand sustainable economic activities that provide prosperity while also highlighting the federal government’s commitment to environmental protection.

Unfortunately, Temer is more worried about his own job, than the Amazon and the people who live there.