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Brazil at crossroads on rainforest preservation

Published: Thursday, March 15, 2012

Long a global leader on forest preservation, Brazil could roll back many of its gains if its president fails to veto new legislation, critics say.

The nation's House and Senate have already voted through new rules softening Brazil's stringent Forest Code, which requires farmers to preserve up to 80 percent of their land as forests. The laws would grant amnesty to farmers who have deforested illegally and exempt them from a provision mandating that they reforest cleared regions.

President Dilma Rousseff could veto the legislation, and has previously promised to do so, but critics fear that pressure from the country's powerful agriculture and ranching sector could influence the decision.

"Whether Brazil maintains this leadership could very well depend on the outcome of this fight over the forest code," said Stephan Schwartzman, director of tropical forest policy at the Environmental Defense Fund in Washington. "The fate of the largest, last remaining tropical forest in the world is at stake."

Growth in the agricultural sector has helped Brazil's economic rise over the past two decades. Today, Brazil has the sixth-largest economy in the world, and is the largest exporter of coffee and sugar cane. It is the second-largest exporter of beef and soy, after the United States.

Much of the new agricultural development has been made possible through the clearing of rainforest, not always legally.

However, the enforcement of strict environmental standards has compelled farmers to slow deforestation. Seven years ago, soybean production was responsible for a quarter of all deforestation, according to experts; now it accounts for less than 2 percent.

The fourth-largest carbon emitter in the world, Brazil hopes to slash its greenhouse gas contributions by 1.3 billion tons by 2020 (Chipman/Yan,  Bloomberg, March 13). -- NM

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500


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Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500.

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