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Policy Center ‘PL da Boiada’ is unconstitutional and may bring severe impacts to the environment, criticize experts

Bruno Pacheco – from Cenarium Magazine

MANAUS – The Project of Law nº 2.159/2021, nicknamed by environmentalists as “PL da Boiada” (Cattle Bill), can bring severe impacts to the environment and to traditional indigenous and riverside populations, besides being unconstitutional, according to environmental experts consulted by CENARIUM MAGAZINE. The text is in progress in the Federal Senate and, if approved, will make the rules for environmental licensing more flexible.

The expectation was that the bill would be voted on after the end of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), considered to be the world’s largest climate change conference, held between November 1st and 12th of this year. However, there is still no forecast for the proposal to be put on the agenda of the National Congress.

The jocular but no less denouncing nickname was given after the leaking of the statement made by the former Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, during a closed-door ministerial meeting, where he was in favor of the end of requirements foreseen in environmental norms, expressing himself with the phrase “pass the cattle”, while the attention of the national press would be turned to the already worrisome pandemic of the new coronavirus.

According to the secretary general of the National Council of Extractive Populations (CNS), Dione Torquato, the project is unconstitutional, since environmental licensing, in Brazil, is one of the main instruments for guaranteeing Article 225 of the Brazilian Constitution itself. “To guarantee the environmental balance, the rational use of natural resources, and to avoid possible environmental crimes and rights violations. What Bill 2.159/2021 brings is an attempt to make this instrument more flexible, which is the regulation for environmental licensing”, highlighted Torquato, in an interview to CENARIUM.

The secretary-general of the National Council of Extractive Populations (CNS), Dione Torquato. (Bruno Kelly/Archive)

“We see this as something extremely irrelevant, unconstitutional. It is not possible that the Brazilian Congress overrides the Constitution itself. It is not possible to see possibilities of good faith in a bill like this, considering all the violations that already occur even with stricter regulations. This project 2159 is a clear attempt to pass the cattle and violate, even more, the socio-environmental rights”, highlighted the secretary.

For Dione Torquato, the bill only defends the interests of the rural bench in wanting to devalue the rights of traditional peoples and communities, favoring the licensing for mining, agribusiness, and uncontrolled cattle-raising. “It is the clear result of this narrative that the government itself brings of discussing, on one hand, investments for the socio-environmental agenda and, on the other hand, making effective the retrogression of this agenda in the country. This is how we saw the government behaving at the COP26 and, unfortunately, this is what we are seeing, even at risk, if this bill is approved”, he declared.

The importance of licensing

The environmental licensing is one of the main tools for protecting the environment and the populations affected by the construction of enterprises in the territories where they live, such as the creation of roads, hydroelectric plants, and dams. Besides seeking to minimize impacts to the environment, the measure aims to ensure the social and economic development of the country.

“Environmental licensing is a fundamental instrument of the National Environmental Policy. It is through it that the technical sector of the environmental agencies of the states and municipalities evaluate the impacts of the projects. Through environmental licensing, we can do the mitigation, find the balance, balancing the negative and positive impacts”, explained the lawyer and environmental consultant from Pará, José Carlos Lima.

To CENARIUM, the specialist also stressed that, when the environmental impacts of the project cannot be altered, the licensing provides for the possibility of environmental compensation, defined as an instrument of public environmental policy that aims to counterbalance the impacts that have occurred or are foreseen in the licensing process.

The lawyer and environmental consultant, José Carlos Lima. (Personal File/Reproduction)

“This environmental compensation goes to the Conservation Units and to the communities affected by that impact, or to the environment itself. It is through licensing that we can correct the projects and adapt them so that we can find the balance between producing and preserving”, continued José Carlos Lima.

For the environmental consultant, there has always been resistance from certain sectors of society that want to do the projects without licensing and, if the PL da Boiada (Cattle Bill) is approved in the National Congress, the damage to the environment is real.

“This bill is harmful, because it removes the obligation of some activities for environmental licensing, and also flexibilizes for the possibility of declaratory licensing. The moment this bill comes to be voted is very bad, because we are ending a conference like the COP with Brazil leaving, basically, with two commitments: not devastating the Amazon forest, with zero deforestation, and reduce the expansion of pastures, and this bill goes against the moment in which we are living, in which humanity needs the forest standing and Brazil to do its job”, said the specialist.

The text of the Bill

The proposal was discussed for 17 years in the House of Representatives, through Law Project No. 3729/2004, and had its basic text approved only in May this year, amidst criticism from institutions, environmentalists and indigenous people. At the time, the Federal and Regional Councils (CFBio/CRBio system) even sent an official letter to the senators expressing concern about the matter. According to the document, the bill can affect the work of biologists all over the country.

“Environmental licensing is a significant market niche for biologists, especially for those who work in the area of environment and biodiversity. The opinion of the biologist and other professionals involved in the process of releasing enterprises with potential environmental impacts is extremely relevant, because these professionals conduct studies that project the circumstances and conditions expected on the environment and the affected society”, says an excerpt of the letter.

The text sent by the councils also lists social impacts for the affected communities. The example cited in the document, which is included in the project, is the requirement of an environmental impact study only for activities that are installed in indigenous and approved areas, and in already titled quilombola territories.

“Thus, those communities in the homologation process, or those still under analysis, would be severely impacted. According to the current rule, regardless of homologation or titling, the communities are consulted so that, in a dialogue between the entrepreneur and the indigenous or quilombola people, mediated by the environmental agency, the impacts can be resolved and compensation for the inevitable damage can be drawn up”, emphasizes another part of the document.

On June 11, the text was officially filed in the Senate, where it was identified as Bill No. 2.159/2021, with Senator Kátia Abreu (MDB/TO) as rapporteur, who has been receiving interventions among critics of the agenda. During the COP26, in Gasglow, Scotland, young activists from the movement “Engaja Mundo” delivered a letter to the senator asking that the bill be removed from the agenda.

In response, Katia Abreu smiled and said that she would not act against the Amazon. “You can leave that we will do nothing against our Amazon, see?”, declared the senator, after kissing the head of an indigenous activist in Gasglow. Watch the video:

The @ENGAJAMUNDO made clear to Senator @KatiaAbreu at the @COP26 what Brazilian society expects from her: to bar the setbacks of the General Licensing Law project report that may be voted in the @SenadoFederal soon! #PLdaBoiadaNo!

👉🏾 https://t.co/ee5I7Q3ysx pic.twitter.com/0MLExt2pWj

  • socioambiental (@socioambiental) November 9, 2021