During this World Environment Day, the Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests, and Agriculture warns, once more, about the severe scenario of illegal deforestation and fire outbreaks in the Amazon. They have been representing a high risk to biodiversity, climate, water security, and have been devastating to traditional peoples and the country’s reputation for markets, investors, and society in general.
According to MapBiomas, 99% of all the deforestation in Brazil in 2019 has definite signs of illegal activities, i.e., occurred in protected areas that have restrictions regarding vegetation removal or without authorization. About 75% of deforestation in 2019 coincides with lands registered in the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR). Therefore, it is possible to associate an Individual or General Taxpayer Registry Number (CPF – for individuals and CNPJ – for businesses) with the area deforested.
A recent trend indicates the deforestation rate will set a new record of the decade in 2020. Data from INPE's DETER system registered 5,666 squared kilometers of the Brazilian Amazon deforested between August of 2019 and April of 2020, the equivalent of a 95% increase compared to the period between August 2018 and April 2019. In April, according to data from Imazon, Brazil has lost part of the Amazon Forest equivalent to the size of the city of Porto Alegre (RS). It was 529 square kilometers destroyed, an increase in 171% compared with April last year.
Studies from IPAM indicate that 2019’s fire season in the Amazon was connected to the increase in deforestation and not with the typical weather of the dry season in the region. Actions to combat the flames avoided that the fire scenarios in 2019 became even worse. However, they were not able to contain the increase in deforestation.
The Amazon Council needs to establish a coordinated and continuous action with all the Amazon region's environmental inspection agencies. Brazil has excellent laws that, if implemented, will bring answers to the fight against unlawfulness.
One of the central pillars of the maintenance of Amazon's integrity and its benefits to the country is the proper treatment of public areas in that biome, currently highly vulnerable. There was an increase in 50% of deforestation in Conservation Units, Indigenous Lands, unassigned areas and land without information between January and March 2020 compared to the same period last year. In these areas, land grabbing and theft of natural resources occur; both are crimes against public assets that demand effective and immediate action from the State. In addition to public assets damaging, land grabbing also has the indirect effect of associating the well succeeded and respectable Brazilian agriculture to land stealing, making this matter even more urgent to be solved.
It is necessary to act now to avoid that a more intense new season of deforestation and fires materialize this year, given the increase in deforestation in 2020 and adding the vegetation cut down in 2019 that has not been burned yet. It is essential to decree a fire moratorium from now until, at least, the end of the dry season.
To exacerbate this worrying scenario, the Executive Power, in May and April of 2020, has taken measures that compromise inspection and conservation of our forests. The dismissals in the inspection sector of IBAMA and the normative ruling of Funai to legalize farms in indigenous lands in the process of homologation go against combating environmental crimes. Such measures should be reviewed by the Amazon Council to avoid the weakening of the environmental institutions and policies.
The image and the commercial position of the country have never been so compromised. The collective work that took decades to build a good reputation is quickly being undone.
This scenario goes beyond environmental urgency. Brazil’s GDP and future growth are intrinsically connected to the protection of the Amazon. Businesses, particularly the agricultural sector, depend upon the maintenance of ecosystem services, such as the rain. Our forests act as Brazilian agriculture's "sprinkler." Besides the water, there are many other ecosystem services, such as pollination of crops, which directly benefits food production.
Also, today Amazon is the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The crisis demonstrated the interdependence of the system and the need to integrate social and environmental dimensions.
There is no Brazil without an Amazon economically and socially prosperous, and environmentally preserved. The image of the forest and its populations preserved is the image of the country. Therefore, fighting against unlawfulness in the Amazon, based on permanent, continuous, and coordinated actions, with wide participation and support from society, is the only path possible for a Brazil that desires to be understood by the world as a nation that is serious, vigilant of its laws, and in search of sustainable trajectories of development.
Brazil had already shown that it is capable of behaving like that and has successful experience in drastically reducing deforestation when it implemented the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon. The sectors that are part of the Brazilian Coalition – with more than 200 representatives of agribusiness, civil society, financial sector, and academia – support the urgent resumption of this initiative as the solution.
Since 2009, Brazilian legislation has already allowed land tenure regularization of small producers’ private properties (properties of up to 4 fiscal modules) to be carried out without the need for a field inspection, with the support of other means of proof, such as remote sensing, to certify the occupation. Such properties account for 95% of all private property holders without land titles registered with INCRA. Therefore, the real obstacles to the regularization of this great majority are not clear.
It is essential to understand the obstacles that render the current law and administrative structure unable to solve the problem of land tenure regularization, in addition to their failure to prevent the increase in deforestation in small and medium-sized properties¹. It is necessary to carry out a more in-depth diagnosis and consider adding mechanisms that effectively fight illegality. For this reason, we need more time to improve the Bill (PL) 2633/2020, which converted most of the text of Provisional Measure (MP) 910/2019, and should not be subjected to an urgency vote.
Throughout the processing of MP 910, the Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture maintained an open dialogue with several interlocutors from the government and Congress². Hence, we recognize that there were many advances in relation to the original text. However, some of the points still need to be more deeply discussed.
Such points include the strengthening of government bodies such as INCRA, a key element for the implementation of any land tenure legislation. In addition, land tenure liabilities must also take into consideration public areas, which have been suffering increasing invasions and land grabbing. A debate on the issuing of land titles to settlers and the allocation of more than 60 million hectares of public forests not designated for conservation and sustainable use is essential.
Considering that the dialogue on the topic is complex, requires the participation of different sectors of society and cannot be carried out during the pandemic and the remote work operation of the Legislative branch, the Brazilian Coalition suggests that Congress install a Special Commission, with due validity and mandate, to bring together experts and prepare studies that support the proposals to be debated. Meanwhile, the Executive branch could move forward with land tenure regularization of small properties, as well as the resumption of legitimization processes concerning indigenous and quilombola lands and the creation of Conservation Units, based on our current legislation. The Brazilian Coalition will be available to the Commission and Congress to contribute to this debate.
About the Brazilian Coalition
The Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture is a multi-sector movement formed with the objective of proposing actions and influencing public policies that lead to the development of a low-carbon economy, with the creation of quality jobs and the fostering of innovation, Brazil’s global competitiveness and generation and distribution of wealth to the entire society. More than 200 companies, business associations, research institutes and civil society organizations have already joined the Brazilian Coalition - coalizaobr.com.br/en
2 The Brazilian Coalition expressed opinions on MP 910 - on the following dates: 05/08/20, 05/06/20, 05/03/20, 04/16/20, 04/02/20, 03/18/20, 02/12/20 and 02/06/20. All of the Coalition’s opinions are based on proposals contained in 2030-2050 Vision, in the Proposals for 2018 Election Candidates and in the movement’s Base Document.
Dear Mrs. Minister Tereza Cristina,
The Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture recognizes the effort from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA) and Deputy Zé Silva, rapporteur of the Provisional Measure (MP) 910/2019, in improving the original document of the MP 910/2019. We stress the progress of the current report, presented on May 4, 2020, to not change the timeline currently in place, since this decision strengthens the Forest Code. It leads to stopping the cycle of periodically postponing the deadline to legalize land occupation and, therefore, sends a strong message to invaders that this situation can no longer repeat or continue.
However, the current report exacerbates still unsolved problems, such as the waiver of an in-person inspection for occupations of up to 15 fiscal modules. The proposal presented by the Coalition recommends the waiver of an in-person inspection of properties of up to four fiscal modules, which would solve the situation of 102,000 (95% of the total) private properties without titles registered with INCRA. The increase of self-declaration from 4 to 15 fiscal modules increases the area to be provided by 52% (from 5.4 million hectares to 8.4 million hectares), with only 4,898 additional landholders.
We did not find technical reasons for any of the interested parties for this expansion in only 4.5% of the properties since the proposal sent by the Coalition already contemplates small landholders. It is precisely in this small percentage of properties that lies the higher risk of the MP becoming a stimulus to land grabbing.
Besides, although the current report has removed the definition of an environmental infraction, it establishes that only properties under seizure or environmental violation after the depletion of administrative procedures are subject to mandatory inspection. Also, the MP proposes to exonerate the land tenure agency with remote mechanisms. Still, it does not take into consideration that the same remote instruments - that in MAPA's opinion are enough to determine land occupation and proper use - are also used to determine illegal deforestation. We suggest that the MP contemplates the use of these tools to verify illegalities.
We hope that the Ministry of Agriculture and Congress can accept our latest contributions. The approval of this MP with a waiver of inspections limited to properties with up to 4 fiscal modules and the requirement of compliance with environmental laws will promote a vital land tenure legalization policy towards the sustainable future of land use. This type of policy is the one embraced by the most diverse sectors of society during the sensitive moment in which the country deserves to give good news and make a tremendous socio-economic and environmental commitment to the world. It would be a real political intelligence and win-win move, as well as an eternal legacy from the government.
Lastly, we suggest that, from a possible approval of this MP 910 focusing exclusively on small owners, a new process of discussion on land tenure legislation for medium landowners begin. The Brazilian Coalition will be available to contribute to this process.
André Guimarães – Coalition’s Co-Facilitator and Executive-Director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM)
Marcello Brito – Coalition’s Co-Facilitator and President of the Board of Directors of the Brazilian Agribusiness Association (Abag)
Dear leaders of the Brazilian Legislative Branch,
Brazil is urging to solve a deadlock that has been getting worse over the decades: land tenure legalization. This is an essential step to eliminate conflicts, bring legal security, increase investments and offer economic inclusion to many rural producers. Therefore, land tenure legalization is a paramount condition to the economic, social and environmental development of the country.
That said, Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture – a movement that gathers more than 200 representatives from the agribusiness, third sector and academia – requests you that the Provisional Measure (MP) 910/2019 does not get placed on the calendar to vote.
This MP was presented as a supposed solution to the land tenure challenge. However, it has severe impacts on combating illegality, especially in combating land grabbing and the consequent growth of illegal deforestation and agrarian distress.
The MP 910/2019 goes in the opposite direction of good land management since it shows invaders that crime has no consequence. Who would be interested in this mistake? In a position paper about the MP 910, the Coalition has detailed this and other risks from this measure.
Due to this concern, the Coalition has started a dialogue with the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Incra) to find a content for the MP 910 that would allow to 1) take advantage and improve positive actions, such as the use of technology in the land tenure legalization process; and 2) correct severe flaws of the MP 910 based on data and technical information. This dialogue continues and we have the hope that our contributions will be heard and followed by the Executive Branch.
Thus, we warn that MP 910’s current content, presently with the Congress, concerns the members of the Coalition, as it does not resonate with important names and organizations from the sectors of our economy.
We believe that it is necessary to think of a new proposal for the land tenure challenge, one that contemplates a wide debate among the diverse sectors of society and still considers the necessary economic recovery post-COVID-19 pandemic, especially in rural areas with a specific focus on family farming and communities arrangements. National Congress members know they can rely on all the support and knowledge of our network to build a solution capable of: using the most modern technology available, enforcing existing laws, benefiting good land occupants, and bringing security and investments to the country.
André Guimarães – Coalition’s Co-Facilitator and Executive-Director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM)
Marcello Brito – Coalition’s Co-Facilitator and President of the Board of Directors of the Brazilian Agribusiness Association (Abag)
The organizations, collectives and signatory networks of this letter, members and partners of the Rede de Advocacy Colaborativo (RAC), Observatório do Clima (OC), Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture, Observatório do Código Florestal (OCF) and GT Infraestrutura require from the President of the Federal Senate and the National Congress, Senator Davi Alcolumbre, to suspend the consideration and vote of polemic matters of high public interest and that can cause harmful effects on the environment, the economy and to the Brazilian society while the restriction of access to the Senate remains, except for urgent matters related with confronting the crisis associated with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to data from the Ministry of Health, the new coronavirus responsible for the transmission of the respiratory syndrome COVID-19 has already caused more than 290 infections in all national territory. This week two deaths caused by this virus, in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, have been confirmed. Since the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, on March 11, a series of recommendations have been issued by health surveillance agencies and other public health agencies to avoid the exponential increase of the contamination and a possible overburden of the health system.
Because of this, several organizations, public agencies and companies have suspended employees’ in-person work and public events for the next weeks – the Chamber of Deputies itself has canceled their schedules and significantly restricted access of citizens to their facilities, and many Senate sessions are being canceled since this Monday (17). Also, the dismissal of senators above 65 years of age indicates that about 1/3 of the representatives of the House will be apart from the main debates that continue this week.
As suspensions or confirmations of deliberative sessions (even when online) are occurring in real-time and some of them during session times, the country is at serious risk of watching highly important topics for our citizenship (fundamental and inalienable rights) being voted by the Parliament with an extremely low quorum and under no transparent and participative public debate.
Among the matters of very relevant national public interest which can be voted at any time, we highlight the Provisional Measure (MPV) 910/2019, about land tenure legalization across Brazil. This MPV notably stimulates and awards land grabbers, criminals and environmental offenders, not only, but above all in the Amazon, and brings easiness, incentives, amnesties, and unacceptable discounts to acquire the title of land illegally occupied. According to studies from Esalq/USP and UFMG, 43 million hectares of public land (equivalent to the states of São Paulo and Paraná combined) will be affected by the rules of this MPV in Legal Amazon alone, and 35% of all deforestation between 2018 and 2019 has occurred precisely in this area.
In this regard, we remember the commitment made by you, Senator Alcolumbre, during the Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 25) in Madrid, in December of 2019, to not allow the advancement – in the Chamber of Deputies – of legislative measures involving setbacks in environmental protection norms and impacts on traditional populations.
During COP 25, you have explicitly stated:
“We will not accept backtracks in environmental policy. We will not consider matters that can threaten forests and traditional peoples”.
Matters such as these, of extreme relevance and impact to national public heritage, need to be discussed widely and democratically, without any restrictions of entry of people (citizens and society organizations), parliamentarians, political parties, leaderships and assistances of the Legislative House, and with wide and total transparency and participation of civil society.
Brasília, March 17, 2020.
Sign this letter,
- Associação dos Povos Indigenas do Brasil (APIB)
- Campanha Nacional pelo Direito à Educação
- Coalizao Não ao Fracking Brasil (COESUS)
- Conselho Nacional dos Seringueiros (CNS)
- Conselho Nacional de Populações Extrativistas
- FBOMS Fórum Brasileiro de ONGs e movimentos sociais para desenvolvimento e meio ambiente
- FORUM de Mudanças Climáticas e Justiça Social
- GT Infraestrutura na Amazônia
- Observatorio do Clima (OC)
- Observatório do Carvão Mineral (OCM)
- Observatorio do Código Florestal (OCF)
- Observatório do Petróleo e Gás (OPG)
- Rede Grupo de Trabalho Amazônico (GTA)
- Rede de ONGs da Mata Atlantica (RMA)
- Amigos da Terra - Amazônia Brasileira
- APREC Ecossistemas Costeiros
- Artigo 19
- ASCEMA Nacional
- Associação Mineira de Defesa do Ambiente (AMDA)
- Associação para a Gestão Socioambiental do Triângulo Mineiro (Anga)
- Clímax Brasil
- Conectas Direitos Humanos
- Fundación Avina
- Fundação Grupo Esquel Brasil
- Fundação SOS Mata Atlântica
- Gestos - Soropositividade, Comunicação e Gênero
- Greenpeace Brasil
- Hivos - Instituto Humanista para Cooperação e Desenvolvimento
- ICLEI América do Sul
- Iniciativa Verde
- Instituto Akatu
- Instituto BVRio
- Instituto Ethos de Empresas e Responsabilidade Social
- Instituto Sociedade, População e Natureza (ISPN)
- Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV)
- Instituto Democracia e Sustentabilidade - IDS
- Instituto de Estudos Ambientais Mayer Natura
- Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos (INESC)
- Instituto Energia e Meio Ambiente (IEMA)
- Instituto Internacional Arapyara
- Instituto Internacional de Educação para o Brasil (IEB)
- Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (Ipam)
- Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas (IPÊ)
- Instituto Socioambiental (ISA)
- International Rivers Network (IRN)
- Instituto de Políticas de Transporte Sustentável (ITDP Brasil)
- Open Knowledge Brasil
- Projeto Saúde & Alegria
- Sociedade de Pesquisa em Vida Selvagem é Educação Ambiental (SPVS)
- SOS Amazônia
- Uma gota no Oceano
- WWF - Brasil
The Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture – which gathers more than 200 representatives, of agribusiness, environmental defense entities and academia, that seek to promote the conservation and sustainable land use in the country – understands that the land tenure legalization of public lands occupied for decades is an essential step towards eliminating conflicts, providing legal security, allowing the economic inclusion of rural producers, promoting social justice, and allowing good governance in Brazilian territory. Land tenure legalization also promotes efficient land use, stimulates owners to do long-term investments, and allows the identification and punishment of those responsible for environmental infractions.
However, instead of proposing measures to update and improve the management of land tenure bodies in order to promote an efficient legalization that respects safeguards, the government has chosen to present Provisional Measure 910 of 2019 (MP 910) to the Congress. This measure regards “land tenure legalization of occupations located in areas of the Brazilian Federal Government.”
The changes in current legislation promoted by this Provisional Measure go in the opposite direction of what is expected in the process of land tenure legalization in the country, especially in the Amazon. By authorizing that recent illegal occupations (until December of 2018) are legalized, including the occupation of large areas (up to 2,500 hectares), MP 910 is validating criminal practices of land grabbing and stimulating its occurrence in the future. It is sending criminal groups the clear message that crime pays off.
The justification presented by the Federal Government to extend the deadline from 2008 to 2014 or 2018 has no foundation since it disregards Forest Code’s time marker for environmental regularizations, which is July 22, 2008¹. Also, the Provisional Measure intends to give more advantages to those who already received the property title but haven’t been paying what they owe for the land or are not compliant with the obligations imposed. In predicting soft billing rules for defaulting owners and changing once more renegotiation deadlines, the provisional measure discredits that such rules will continue to exist or be enforced. This stimulates more defaulting and rural violence.
Another serious problem is the stimulation of public land grabbing generated by the expectation of obtaining titles for recently occupied areas and through the trade of lands below market value. The illegal expansion over public lands means a loss of over 70 billion reais to public funds². MP 910 practically annuls the possibility of stopping the expansion of the agricultural frontier over native vegetation areas. Currently that is a very serious problem. According to MapBiomas, more than 90% of the deforestation happening in the Amazon is illegal. Also, according to data from the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), 35% of the deforestation in the Amazon (2018-19) occurred in public lands subjected to land grabbing³. The profitability of the invasion business, deforestation, and the trade of public lands will continue to induce a disorderly expansion, one without agronomic or environmental reasonability, based on power, and not following the best project for land use. In the short term, this scenario will drive away investors and buyers of our agricultural commodities⁴, and, in the medium and long term, it will create problems to agricultural production by interrupting natural cycles that guarantee rainfall in most of the country. Therefore, in addition to the agricultural sector itself, it harms Brazilian society as a whole.
In extending titling by self-declaration to properties of up to 15 fiscal modules – without the need for an inspection by public authorities – MP 910 will facilitate fraud and increase land tenure conflicts. The example of the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR), which is self-declared and encompasses more than 90% of rural properties in the country, shows what can happen if this alteration is approved: 95% of registered properties present some kind of overlap with other properties⁵. Therefore, to promote titling without an inspection, in this scenario, will aggravate the current situation. Tools such as the use of satellite images are not able to verify who is promoting the occupation, or if the occupation is tame and peaceful. According to the Tribunal de Contas da União (2014)⁶, the Brazilian federal accountability office, although occupations above 4 fiscal modules represent only 4% of all the properties titled by the Program Legal Land, they account for 30% of all titled area.
For these reasons, we understand that MP 910 cannot be approved as it is written. The changes it brings do not help land tenure legalization and the proper use of the Brazilian territory, but lead to an increase in land grabbing and the speculative deforestation associated with it.
For this reason, we consider that it is essential to guarantee the following:
a) Deadlines to regulate public land tenure are not altered, maintaining, at least, the same as the one of the Forest Code – July 22, 2008;
b) The possibility of legalization without the need of inspection is maintained only for the occupation of areas of up to 4 fiscal modules and mandatory inspections are determined for all properties in which the CAR is: i) canceled, or ii) with partial or total overlap with another registered property;
c) Before the legalization of land tenure of areas with deforestation, the legality of such deforestation has to be proved and, in case it is illegal, regardless of previous sanctions, the legalization can only occur after inspection. Besides, they will need to adhere to the Environmental Regularization Program (PRA), in which case, the title will have to be issued with conditions regarding the implementation of the PRA;
d) The deadline for defaulter renegotiation is not extended, maintaining this possibility only to titles issued until December 22, 2016, as it is established in the recently approved Federal Law 13.465/17. Also, in default cases, the rules of debt execution predicted by the Central Bank are applied, with the execution after 90 days of default of only one installment.
About the Brazilian Coalition
The Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture is a multi-sector movement that was established with the goal of proposing actions and influencing public policies that would lead to the development of a low carbon economy, with the creation of quality jobs, stimulus to innovation and Brazilian global competitiveness, and generation and distribution of wealth for the whole society. More than 200 companies, businesses associations, research centers and civil society organizations have joined the Brazilian Coalition - coalizaobr.com.br/en
¹ CHIAVARI, Joana; LOPES, Cristina Leme. Nota Técnica. Medida provisória recompensa atividades criminosas: Análise da MP 910/2019 que altera o marco legal da regularização fundiária de ocupações em terras públicas federais. Rio de Janeiro: Climate Policy Initiative, 2020.
² BRITO, Brenda et al. Stimulus for land grabbing and deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Environmental Research Letters, v.14, n.6, p.064018, 2019
³ Available at: https://ipam.org.br/35-do-desmatamento-na-amazonia-e-grilagem-indica-analise-do-ipam/
⁴ Available at: https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/mercado/2019/12/investidores-boicotam-o-brasil-por-preocupacoes-com-desmatamento-na-amazonia.shtml
⁵ SPAROVECK, G. et alii. Nota Técnica preliminar sobre o anúncio de Medida Provisória de regularização fundiária autodeclarada.
⁶ TRIBUNAL DE CONTAS DA UNIÃO. Relatório de Auditoria de Conformidade no Programa Terra Legal Amazônia, TC 015.859/2014-2, Fiscalização 402/2014, Relator: Ministro Weder de Oliveira.