Faced with international pressure against President Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental agenda, ministers Ciro Nogueira (Casa Civil) and Joaquim Álvaro Pereira Leite (Environment) tried to counter the criticism with a brief presentation of actions to combat fires and illegal deforestation in the Amazon .
Despite Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental statements and the history of deforestation progress, Ciro said on Tuesday (31) that the environment has been “the number one priority” since his arrival in the Planalto.
Ciro and Leite were accompanied by the Minister of Justice, Anderson Torres. The proposal was to announce a “new action plan for the federal government to combat fires”, but most of the measures had already been announced on previous occasions. No questions from journalists were allowed.
In his speech, Ciro said he believed in a “very expressive image recovery worldwide”.
“Especially at a time when we need to have a very positive image of our country, these actions that will be implemented will contribute a lot so that we can further increase the downward trend in our deforestation and burning rates,” he declared.
The ministers’ effort to rebut the widely held image of a government uncommitted to the conservation agenda comes a day after Bolsonaro pointed to an “obsession” by US President Joe Biden with the environmental agenda. According to him, an “almost obsession” on the part of the Democrat for the topic “has a little bit of a hindrance” to the Brazilian government.
The ministers’ statements also took place the day after the release, by entities linked to agribusiness, of a manifesto defending the institutions and the balance between the Powers — in a critical message to Bolsonaro.
“We are one of the largest economies on the planet, one of the most important countries in the world, in any respect, and we cannot present ourselves as a society permanently stressed by endless crises or at risk of setbacks and institutional ruptures. Brazil is much bigger and better than the image we have projected to the world. This is costing us dearly and will take time to revert”, states the manifesto.
In the text, the entities also say that agribusiness “has a success story recognized around the world, as a result of innovation and sustainability that have made us a global agro-environmental power”.
The main actions listed by the Ministry of Environment were already known. Leite cited the availability of 6,000 firefighters to fight deforestation, the hiring of 700 new employees to inspect Ibama and ICMBio and the delivery of the first of 15 fire trucks.
The hiring of new servers, for example, had already been announced by Vice President Hamilton Mourão at a meeting of the Legal Amazon Council last week. The Environment itself announced, on the last 18th, the delivery of the truck.
In July, the Ministry of Justice announced Operation Guardians of the Biome, which has the support of more than 6,000 brigade members. According to Leite said on Tuesday, there are now 3,200 men in the field. “We are going to act decisively as directed by President Bolsonaro to eliminate illegal deforestation prior to 2030. The commitment [assumido por Bolsonaro] it was until 2030 before the Climate Agreement, but ours is the maximum effort to act in the fight against illegal deforestation”, he said.
He also highlighted that deforestation measurement data for July and August indicate a downward trend in relation to the same months last year. “Last month, in July, we had a drop in relation to Deter [sistema do Inpe], from last year to this, 10%. And, in the month of August, previously, we have a figure of approximately 30% reduction compared to last year.”
Despite this, Brazil led the world ranking of deforestation in 2020, according to a report by the World Resources Institute. The country still concentrated more than a third of the surface of virgin forests devastated on the planet, about 1.7 million hectares, according to the document Global Forest Watch.
In relation to the Amazon, deforestation grew about 9.5% from August 2019 to July 2020 compared to the previous period. In total, 11,088 km² of forest were cut down in this period of time. The consolidated data for the year are the first under the responsibility of the Bolsonaro government.
Mourão, who coordinates the Amazon Council and had been centralizing the fight against fires, was not in the announcement and was quickly mentioned by the ministers of the Civil House and the Environment.
On the 24th, the vice president announced that the actions of the Armed Forces for environmental preservation in the Amazon would be extended for 45 days — until the second week of October.
The action of GLO (Guarantee of Law and Order) that allows the presence of the military in the region would end at the end of August. Considered the main bet of the government to fight deforestation so far, GLO was not mentioned in the speeches of the three ministers this afternoon.