Political parties unite to save rainforests

In a rare display of unanimity, the presidents of the eight biggest parties have signed a letter asking the Brazilian president to veto changes to an environmental law.

This content was published on February 29, 2012 minutes and agencies

Before taking office in January 2011, Dilma Rousseff promised to veto any revision of the 47-year-old Forest Code, a central piece of environmental legislation, that granted amnesty to landowners who had previously deforested illegally.

Then the Brazilian government negotiated a version of the code, approved by the Senate in December, that could see regulation relaxed, opening up an additional 55 million hectares – the size of France – for logging, cattle ranching and other destructive activities. The second chamber is expected to debate the legislation in March, with Rousseff holding final veto power.

“In the past, Brazil has gained respect and great recognition around the world with its successes in combating deforestation and with the significant reduction in related greenhouse gas emissions,” the Swiss party presidents wrote (see link).

“In the run-up to the Rio+20 summit [the United Nations conference on sustainable development in June], such a change in the law would threaten the country’s leading role in not only forest conservation but also climate protection.”

WWF Switzerland said the letter was a “great signal”. “Resistance [to the reform] is growing. We hope the planned felling can still be stopped at the last minute,” the environmental organisation said.

The Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest tropical rainforest, covering half of Brazil. It has been described as the lungs of the planet, producing about 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen and may house half of all plant and animal species.

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