rose to its highest level in more than a decade last year, Brazil’s first under the leadership of Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right nationalist who has vowed to develop the region and slash environmental protections.
And on Tuesday, in the latest chapter of an intensifying international pressure campaign, institutions from countries including the US, the UK, Norway and Japan told Brazil’s leaders the devastation – which has continued to increase this year – had to stop.
controversial legislative proposals to legalise occupation of public lands and forests and a Bolsonaro-backed push to open indigenous lands to commercial mining.
They also highlighted recent remarks from Bolsonaro’s environment minister, Ricardo Salles, suggesting Covid-19 provided good cover to push through deregulation since journalists were distracted.
“[We] urge the government of Brazil to demonstrate clear commitment to eliminating deforestation and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples,” the investors wrote.
The letter comes after seven European investment firms last week announced they would divest from beef producers, grains traders and even government bonds in Brazil. “The trends we’ve seen in Brazil are very concerning,” Daniela da Costa-Bulthuis, Brazil portfolio manager for Netherlands-based asset manager Robeco, told Reuters.
the creation of an “Amazon Council” supposedly tasked with defending the world’s largest rainforest and placed vice-president Hamilton Mourão in charge of those efforts.
But Rubens Ricupero, Brazil’s former environment minister, said he suspected the anti-deforestation plan was little more than “pure public relations” designed to hoodwink the world.
“I am very sceptical,” Ricupero said, noting that the “disastrous” increase in deforestation had continued this year.
“These are not small increases. These are gigantic increases – and so far there are no facts that would justify thinking that the government is genuinely concerned about this,” Ricupero added.
“Even if the government now manages zero deforestation [for the rest of 2020], this year will still be worse than last year. And no Brazilian government has ever managed zero deforestation, no matter how hard they have tried in the past.”
Ricupero said pressure from international investors would be a mid-term worry for Bolsonaro’s administration as it looked to rebuild Latin America’s biggest economy with a series of major post-pandemic infrastructure projects.
“Right now, there is no investment, from Brazilians or foreigners. But the concern is that as the pandemic begins to weaken, the government will want to revive the economy … and for that the government will need to be able to attract investments from overseas.”