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Joint Letter To President Rousseff Raising Concerns After Brazil Passes Controversial Forest Code Reform

Date: 09/12/2011

The Rainforest Foundation UK, along with other UK NGOs and members of Bond (the UK membership body for international development NGOs) have sent the Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff a collective statement raising concerns about the suggested amendments to the Brazilian Forest Code, as announced to the international press earlier this week after its passing at the Brazilian Senate on Monday.

You can read the letter in full below, or download a copy at the below link.

An article regarding the revision of the Brazilian Forest Code can be found on Mongabay.com here.

7 December 2011

Your Excellency President Dilma,

Re: UK NGOs' concerns about the new Brazilian Forest Code

We, the undersigned UK NGOs and members of Bond - the UK membership body for international development NGOs, would like to raise our concerns about the suggested amendments to the Brazilian Forest Code as outlined in this letter. At the Durban Climate Change Conference and in six months time at the Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20), Brazil's global reputation in the fight against deforestation and climate change is at stake.

The Brazilian government's efforts in recent years to reduce deforestation and its commitment to protect the Amazon rainforest is one that we all recognise, not only for the sake of the biodiversity and forest dependent communities, but also because it is an essential element in the efforts worldwide to combat climate change. Therefore, it is disappointing to hear about the recent increases in deforestation within the Amazon, especially after the progress in recent years towards reducing this damage.

Commentators have linked this increase in forest destruction to the proposed changes to the Forest Code - the main law protecting Brazil's forests and affording environmental protection to vulnerable areas such as river banks and steep slopes. If landowners are allowed to clear more forest, deforestation will increase - Brazilian academics estimate an additional 47 million hectares of forest would be immediately eligible for clearing .

The proposed stark changes, including promises of amnesty, could also lead to increased conflict over land and resources, as has already happened in the Amazon states of Rondônia and Pará since 24 May 2011 . Such acts are a tragic reminder of what can happen when the interests of those who try to protect forests for the wider good clash with those who seek to exploit forests illegally for immediate returns.

Brazilian scientists say there are over 60 million hectares of degraded or underutilized land that could be used for increasing food production so that deforestation is not a prerequisite for economic development . They, plus 10 former Brazilian Environment Ministers, also warn that changing the Forest Code will cause considerable loss of biodiversity and negative climate impacts . Soya export giants, major beef suppliers and shoe industry brands are conscious that forest protection is key to their ability to capture international markets .

You have promised to uphold the previous government's international commitments to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 80% by 2020. Despite this commitment, the new forest code proposal has been approved in the Brazilian Senate on 6 December without considering the concerns of Brazilian civil society organizations and scientists about the proposed changes as follows:

1. No increase in deforestation
2. No amnesty for those who formerly disrespected the law and destroyed forest
3. Keep environmental control - don't allow states to decide on the deforestation limits.

If these issues are not resolved during the legislative process for agreeing amendments to the Forest Code, it will fall to you as President to decide future of the Amazon and the future direction and leadership of Brazil on environmental issues.

We therefore ask you to veto the damaging proposals and thereby remain on track to meeting your promises to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by at least 80% by 2020, and keep Brazil at the forefront in the efforts to tackle climate change through halting deforestation.

Yours sincerely,

Lyndall Stein
Interim Chief Executive, Bond
On behalf of the Bond Development and Environment Group and the following organisations:

The Rainforest Foundation UK
Client Earth

1. Institute for Applied Economic Research, (IPEA, Secretariat of Strategic Affairs, Brazilian Presidency) Communication number 96 - Forest Code implications of the project of law 1876/99 in areas of Legal Reserve)
2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-13536298
3. http://www.biotaneotropica.org.br/v10n4/en/abstract?point-of-view+bn00110042010
4. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/27/brazil-forest-protection-code
5. http://www.leatherworkinggroup.com/blog/2011/10/lwg-concerned-that-pending-legislation-in-brazil-may-increase-deforestation/
6. This letter comes from the Bond Development and Environment Group (DEG), with contributions from Client Earth, Greenpeace, IIED, The Rainforest Foundation and WWF. DEG is a network of 70 UK based NGOs with a shared interest in the links between environment and development.

Download the DEG letter to President Dilma re Forest Code

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