Legal deforestation also threatens the climate, scientists warn

Within the law, Brazil could deforest the equivalent of two Germanys, emitting billions of tons of CO2. The EU and researchers fear that a focus on curbing illegal deforestation will lead to a relaxation of environmental rules. It seems obvious, but it bears repeating: for the balance of nature, legislative frameworks do not make the slightest difference. Which means that it matters little whether deforestation was carried out within the limits established in environmental legislation — which, in the Brazilian case, vary according to the biome — or whether it is the so-called illegal deforestation. The consequence, who will feel, is the planet. The importance of also containing deforestation considered legal is the central point of a scientific research that will be published on November 23 by the journal Environmental Research Letters. According to the authors of the study, if Brazilian agribusiness decides to deforest the entire area currently permitted by law, that would mean a loss of 70 million hectares of native vegetation — equivalent to twice the total area of ​​Germany. In total, it would entail an additional emission of 5.8 billion tons of carbon. The researchers identified that, of these 70 million hectares, 3.25 million are at high risk of being deforested by 2025. These are places considered of high aptitude for agriculture, as they are close to infrastructure, have favorable soil and are in suitable climatic regimes for the cultivation of commodities. Such mapping was developed from a study carried out over six months by nine researchers from the University of São Paulo, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Institute of Forestry and Agricultural Management and Certification and the non-governmental organizations WWF-Brasil and Trase. Risk of loosening the law According to the researchers, in the case of Brazil there is still a lot of area susceptible to legal deforestation; and in several countries, including Brazil, there are lobbies of ruralist benches and other interested parties who intend to loosen the legislation even further. Because of this, the authors of the study recommend that the concept of deforestation adopted in the legislation of importing countries does not differ whether it was legal, legalizable or illegal. “Our argument is very clear: it is innocuous, ineffective and even inefficient for you to try to differentiate legal from illegal deforestation, especially in a country like Brazil. We need to stop deforestation absolutely”, says Tiago Reis, leader of Trase at South America and one of the authors of the work. “At the moment, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union are formulating policies to verify and potentially inhibit the importation of products associated with illegal deforestation in producing countries”, he contextualizes. “[Se tais regulações não forem bem planejadas] there is a serious problem, because they can allow the continuity of the so-called legal deforestation and even encourage the change of legislation in producing countries.” EU expresses concern about “wrong incentives” In a proposal presented by the European Commission this Wednesday (11/17) to determining that the bloc only acquires commodities with a commitment to zero deforestation, the concern with environmental legislation became clear. “It is hoped that the definition of free from deforestation will avoid creating the wrong incentives for third countries that would otherwise , would be tempted to reduce environmental standards to facilitate the access of their products to the European Union if only legality controls are established in the proposal”, says an excerpt from one of the documents. In a statement, the non-governmental organization WWF recognized the importance of the terms of the proposal, but, at the same time, showed concern about the possible shortcomings. “As the world’s largest trading bloc, the European Union has the responsibility to prevent their consumption from causing the destruction of nature. With this proposal, the European Commission has laid the foundations for the bloc to become the first region to comprehensively address its role in global deforestation,” said Ester Asin, director of the NGO’s European policy office. Risk of dismantling environmental regulations “The big problem with the focus on legality is that it creates a perverse incentive to legalize what is now illegal”, analyzes biologist Mairon Bastos Lima, a researcher at the Stockholm Environmental Institute. . It is legalized in Brazil, thus accepted in the foreign consumer market, and nothing has been solved about the practical problem of environmental losses and their negative consequences for people.” According to him, this attitude hides a risk: worsening what is already underway. “Under friendly names, such as ‘simplifying’, ‘facilitating’ or ‘streamlining’ the environmental procedures, what has been done is to reduce requirements, loosen environmental protections and let them run wild, let the herd pass” “If, on top of that, there is still a market incentive for legalization, the current dismantling of Brazilian environmental regulations could increase even more.” Agricultural engineer Marcos Heil Costa, professor at the Federal University of Viçosa, recalls that these legislations that differentiate what is legal deforestation and what is illegal deforestation are subject to “strong lobbies from some sectors”. “The most efficient way [de não permitir um afrouxamento] it would counterbalance that lobbying in Congress. International pressure in the form of trade agreements helps a little, but we must remember that not all the commodities produced are destined for export,” he points out. “Many are destined for the domestic market, where there is practically no pressure for products from different areas. not deforested.” But if the ideal is zero deforestation, is there worse deforestation? “Illegal deforestation continues to be worse, as it is a clear symptom of a lack of political will on the one hand, and the corruption of public agents on the other. It gives insecurity to the producer who wants to produce legally and weakens the system as a whole. And in the long term, the net loss of forest cover tends to be greater”, assesses biologist Magno Botelho Castelo Branco, a specialist in ecology and a professor at Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie. “It must be clear: from the point of view of the planet, nature, and the people who suffer from environmental destruction, whether it is sandstorms in Brazil or global climate change, it makes no difference whether this destruction occurs legally or illegally,” adds Lima. “The planet will not stop warming if deforestation takes place legally.” Author: Edison Veiga

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