At a one-month summit with the United States, the government updates the plan for the Amazon

Operation Verde Brasil 2 in Marabá, PA. Photo: Anderson Sares / FAB.

Less than a month from the climate meeting organized by US President Joe Biden, the Brazilian government updated on March 25 a document officially presented in January, which was called “Operative Plan 2020-2023” for controlling deforestation.

The document comes after the government has spent more than two years without a plan to protect the Amazon, and its update comes during negotiations with the U.S. government on a cooperation agreement that may involve American money.

The Bolsonaro government did something similar in November 2019, just before the Madrid climate conference (COP25), when it recreated – and came to control – bodies such as the Climate Fund Steering Committee and the National Redd + Commission, which had been extinguished in April of that year.

At the beginning of his term, Jair Bolsonaro (without a party) shelved the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon (PPCDAm). Created in 2003 after a record high in devastation, the PPCDAm was the main responsible for the 83% drop in deforestation between 2004 and 2012.

After successive increases in burning and deforestation rates, Vice President Hamilton Mourão, who coordinates the Amazon Council, recognized in July 2020 that the country did not have a plan to combat the problem. In May of that year, the government had submitted a proposal to replace the PPCDAm that had no objectives, goals or actions.

Only in January, after two years of government, was it announced an “Operative Plan” related to this proposal. During this period, deforestation in the Amazon exploded: 34% increase in 2019, the highest percentage increase in the century, and 9.5% in 2020, the highest absolute number since 2008.

The 2020-2023 Operational Plan, which despite its name was launched late in 2021, has 52 dispersed objectives, with no budget forecast and often illogical with the actions that should lead to the expected result – the PPCDAm had 9 specific objectives.

Many of the proposals are actions that were already being developed. Some of the goals are mere declarations of intent, others are subjective and not measurable. Still others may lead to an increase in deforestation: an entire chapter of the plan deals with “land regularization”, a recent government obsession. One of its goals is to “review the legal frameworks that regulate the law 11.952 / 2009”. This is an attempt to approve the so-called Grilagem PL, which extends deadlines and loosens criteria for the titling of public lands occupied in an irregular manner.

Another point that is clear in the document, which has already been demonstrated in several initiatives of the current government, is the low role of environmental agencies (Ibama and ICMBio) and the attempt at military control, via Censipam (from the Ministry of Defense), of satellite monitoring of the deforestation, in overlap with (and eventually replacing) INPE. In order to “strengthen and improve the monitoring systems and the provision of information for the prevention and control of illegal deforestation”, there are four lines of action. Three of them are clear repetitions of work that Inpe is already doing: producing deforestation alerts from radar images, drawing up the “Tzero” map of deforestation (which INPE produced in 1988) and making information available to States. Censipam was in charge of the three. INPE only appears, mentioned with 11 other bodies, in a fourth line of action, called “improving the exchange of information”.

Unlike PPCDAm, which was specific to the Amazon (there was also a plan for the Cerrado), the new plan is proposed nationally. However, the document does not deal in detail with the problems of other biomes.

One of the few measurable goals with the objective of reducing deforestation has been established for ICMBio: the plan foresees a 15% increase in ICMBio’s inspection actions by 2023, despite the 46% cut in the budget for the Institute in 2021, approved by the Congress on the same day the document was updated.

In the case of Ibama, the largest environmental agency in the country, there is no objective and measurable target for inspection. Environment Minister Ricardo Salles said last Saturday in an interview with the newspaper The State of São Paulo who intends to raise money abroad to send military police from the National Force in the Amazon, saying that it is very expensive to take a contest for Ibama and it takes one year (in two years none has been done and the need for more agents had already been presented to Jair Bolsonaro shortly after the election, but the president said he would not hire at all).

Among the goals, the document states that the Institute should “implement the National Annual Environmental Protection Plan (PNAPA), expand cooperation and integrated interagency work and expand the use of satellite technology to identify areas with a higher incidence of illegal deforestation” . In other words, if Ibama determines in PNAPA that 14 infraction notices will be applied in the Amazon per month, as occurred in January this year, that’s fine; the goal will be met – until the Bolsonaro government, the Institute imposed an average of 15,000 fines per year in the country.

The dismantling carried out by the current management resulted in the lowest rate of assessments in recent decades: only in the Amazon, the infraction notices for crimes against flora fell by half (50.2%) in 2020 compared to 2018.

One of the actions listed for the Institute in the “zero tolerance” section is “to increase the punishment for crimes and environmental infractions related to illegal deforestation and forest fires”. However, the Bolsonaro government has not collected the environmental fines imposed by the Institute since October 2019, when the decree that created the so-called “conciliation” of fines came into force. This is one more instance in the already lengthy process of paying fines. The justification for its creation was the possibility of holding hearings between the inspection agencies and the fines that led to the payment of the fine at a discount without the need for judicial challenge. In practice, the measure ended the collection. Survey made in 2020 by Climate Observatory through the Access to Information Law, which resulted in questioning in the STF, showed that Ibama held only five hearings out of a total of 7,205 scheduled.

Another goal foresees “To provide data on deforestation via the Terrabrasilis platform (from Inpe), allowing integration of geographic databases, without the need for human interaction”. The expected result for this goal is “Information and inputs made available for Operation Green Brazil 2020”. However, the government has already announced that this operation will be closed in April 2020 – that is, a plan planned to last until 2023 establishes as a result a failed initiative that will be aborted two years and eight months earlier.

In the “land regularization” section, one of the objectives of the plan is “to promote land regularization of public lands and the titling of land reform settlements”. Nonetheless,

show that the Bolsonaro government registered the lowest level in the decade of issuing land titles in the Amazon: 553 in 2020 and only 1 in 2019, against an average of 3,190 per year in the period 2009-2020.

In the “payment for environmental services” section, one of the goals set is “to implement the Forest + Amazon project, making payments for activities to conserve native vegetation in rural properties – 150 thousand ha by 2023”. This project was approved two years ago by the UN climate fund and received R $ 500 million. It has not yet left the table, not complying with the schedule for selecting beneficiaries, as shown in

O Whole Policy analyzed the changes made to the second version of the document here (Felipe Werneck).

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