Rainforest in Jaraqui, Brazil

Environment and climate Reconciling ecological, social and economic interests

The vast majority of the Amazon rainforest lies in Brazil. The function that it plays in retaining water and carbon is of key importance for the global climate and for economic development in South America.

Yet every year, extensive areas of forest are cut down – partly illegally – in order to provide new land for farming or grazing.

Deforestation in the Amazon reached another negative record high of 13,235 square kilometres in the period from August 2020 to July 2021. This corresponds to an increase of 22 per cent compared to the previous year. Illegal mining is also causing enormous damage in the rainforest. Given the situation, criticism has been expressed regarding staffing and funding cuts at the government-run Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) and at the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), which is a subordinate arm of the Ministry of the Environment.

UN rapporteur deplores shortcomings in protecting people

In December 2019, Baskut Tuncak, the UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, visited Brazil. In his end-of-visit statement, he accused the Brazilian government of failing to fulfil its constitutional duty to protect the country’s people from hazardous substances and wastes. He noted that important environmental programmes had been cancelled and public participation limited, and that laws and court decisions intended to protect people from toxic substances were not being enforced.

Examples of inadequate protection of human rights and the environment and of failing to prosecute environmental crimes cited by Tuncak were the increasing deforestation and the high number of forest fires in the Amazon region, the oil spill discovered off the coast of Brazil in the summer of 2019, the new approval of highly hazardous pesticides for use in agriculture and the use of toxic substances in the mining industry.

Balancing ecological, social and economic interests is one of the most important tasks of German-Brazilian cooperation for sustainable development.

Climate action

Brazil was one of the first countries to ratify the Paris Agreement and made a commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions 37 per cent – compared to 2005 levels – by 2025 and 43 per cent by 2030. President Bolsonaro has publicly declared his commitment to the Paris Agreement and to the goals of the 2030 Agenda on numerous occasions. However, funding cuts in the pertinent protection areas raise doubts as to whether his government is indeed seriously striving to achieve these goals.