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 criticism of the government with a brief presentation of actions to combat fires and illegal deforestation in the Amazon.
Despite Bolsonaro’s various anti-environmental statements and the history of deforestation progress, Ciro said on Tuesday (31) that the issue of the environment was the “number one priority” since his arrival on the Plateau.
Ciro and Leite were accompanied by Minister of Justice Anderson Torres. The proposal was to announce “a new federal action plan to fight 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 “very expressive image recovery around the world”.
“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 accentuate the downward trend in our deforestation and burning rates”, did he declare.
The ministers’ effort to refute the widespread image of a government not committed to the conservation agenda comes a day after Bolsonaro pointed to US President Joe Biden’s “obsession” with the environmental agenda.
According to Bolsonaro, this “quasi obsession” of Biden with the subject “complicates a little” the Brazilian government.
The ministers’ statements also came the day after the release, by agribusiness-related entities, of a manifesto defending institutions and the balance of power – 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 every way, and we cannot present ourselves to the community of nations as a society constantly stressed by crises without end or threatened with setbacks and institutional ruptures. Brazil is much bigger and better than the image we projected to the world. This is costing us dearly and will take time to reverse, ”says the manifesto.
In the text, the entities also state that the Brazilian agro-industry “has a success story recognized around the world, thanks to the innovation and sustainability that have made us a global agro-environmental power”.
The main actions listed by the Ministry of the 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 the delivery of the fire truck on the 18th.
In July, the Justice Department announced Operation Guardians of the Biome, which has the support of more than 6,000 brigade members. According to Leite this afternoon, there are 3,200 men on the ground today.
“We will act decisively in accordance with President Bolsonaro’s instructions to eliminate illegal deforestation by 2030. The commitment [assumido por Bolsonaro] it was until 2030 before the climate agreement, but our effort is maximum to act in the fight against illegal deforestation, ”said Leite.
He also pointed out that deforestation measurement data for July and August shows a downward trend compared to the same months last year.
“Last month, in July, we had a drop compared to Deter [sistema do Inpe], from last year to this one, 10%. And in August, previously, we have a figure of about 30% off compared to last year.
Despite this, Brazil tops the global deforestation ranking in 2020, according to a report released by the World Resources Institute.
The country concentrates more than a third of the surface of the devastated virgin forests on the planet, or about 1.7 million hectares, according to the Global Forest Watch document.
As for the Amazon, deforestation increased by around 9.5% from August 2019 to July 2020 compared to the previous period. A total of 11,088 km² of forest were felled during this period. The consolidated data for the year are the first under the responsibility of the Bolsonaro government.
Mourão, who coordinates the Amazon Council and centralizes the fight against the fires, was not in the announcement of the plan. It was quickly mentioned by the ministers of Civil House and the Environment.
On the 24th, the vice president announced that the actions of the armed forces for the preservation of the environment in the Amazon would be extended by 45 days – the second week of October.
The action of the GLO (Guarantee of public order) which allows the presence of the military in the region would end at the end of August.
Considered so far as the government’s main bet to fight deforestation, GLO was not mentioned in the speeches of the three ministers this afternoon.