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Brazil: the world awaits Dilma’s decision on forests

25 May 2012

Today’s the day Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff will announce whether she’s going to approve or veto the damaging changes to the country’s long-standing forest laws. A petition with two million signatures was officially handed in to her yesterday. People across Brazil and around the world want her to veto the bill (thank you if you’ve added your name to the petition). Now we wait and hope Dilma will do the right thing today, and stop this disastrous dismantling of the Forest Code.

Only a total veto of the proposed new bill will really do. It’s such a complex piece of legislation that a partial, line-by-line veto is very unlikely to remove all the serious dangers it represents.

President Dilma has previously made a commitment that she would not permit any new deforestation or grant amnesties for earlier environmental crimes, which we know would send a highly negative message.

The only way Dilma can meet that commitment is a total veto of the Forest Code changes today. Then discussions can be restarted on regulating the current law on a more democratic basis.

So far the proposed changes have failed to incorporate society’s clearly expressed desires or listen to the evidence from scientists.

Brazilian society has been very actively engaged in recent months, and the ‘Veto it all, Dilma!’ campaign has become a social phenomenon in Brazil. The movement was an initiative of the ‘Comitê Brasil in Defence of the Forests and Sustainable Development’, a coalition of 200 organisations, including WWF-Brazil.

On Thursday night they held a vigil in Três Poderes square in Brasilia, right in front of the presidential palace.

But despite the impressive size of the grassroots movement, generating huge worldwide attention and support on social media in particular, the Comitê has never been given an audience by President Dilma, after numerous requests.

More worryingly, the president recently held a meeting with one of the leaders of the ruralista faction (representing agribusiness and big landowner interests). By contrast she’s never met anyone from the smaller, family-based agriculture sector, or fishermen, students, trade unions, religious groups, environmentalists or others calling for the veto.

Remember Rio, Dilma

It’s ironic that Brazil is on the eve of hosting the UN Rio+20 summit on sustainable development, where Brazil’s socio-environmental issues will certainly come under the international spotlight. 

This is a moment when Brazil should be setting a good example to other countries. But if the bill to change the Forest Code is approved, even in part, Brazil risks embarking on one of the most regressive processes ever in its history.

And as our own recent Living Planet Report makes clear, now is not the time to be going backwards on environmental protection anywhere. The world’s biodiversity and ecosystems are under threat as never before.

Brazil’s forests, including the prized Amazon, are among the most important ecosystems on the planet. And right now the future of those forests – and consequently the wider natural world, not to mention the global climate – is in President Dilma’s hands.

As the Comitê Brasil says: “The Brazilian forests took millions of years to become established - but the mere stroke of a pen, in just a few seconds, could determine their destruction.

“We urge President Dilma not to place either Brazilian nature or her own credibility in danger. A Brazil with development and a bright future means a Brazil with its forests intact, and a Brazil that respects the manifest wishes of its people. Therefore we say: Veto it altogether Dilma, because Brazil will support you!”

Here’s your chance to make sure your voice is heard. You can…

Add your name to the millions who’ve already signed the petition to save Brazil’s forests

Be part of WWF’s unique Earth Book today - tell us what you love most about the natural world, and what you couldn’t bear to lose…

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Aerial view of the Peruvian Amazon

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