Jair Bolsonaro’s government has published more than 600 laws that can make significant environmental changes, 500 of them this year alone.
The growth in 2020 was also big when viewed as a narrower set of rules and with bigger implications like deregulation, flexibility and privatization. The rate of these norms increased from 67 to 101 during the reporting period (an increase of 51%).
The analysis was based on data from the Environmental Policy Monitor, which tracks the activities of the federal government in this sector. The tool was developed in collaboration with Folha and the Policy for a Whole initiative (click here to access the monitor).
The environmental laws published by the federal executive committee in the official gazette are extracted automatically. When searching, the publications you want are selected using keywords. More than 2,000 files have been selected since the beginning of the Bolsonaro administration.
They are then analyzed by experts who indicate which are most relevant and classify them. So far, 606 standards have been identified and classified.
The increase in laws published by the government doesn’t necessarily mean that all are negative. There are cases where the change can even be seen as positive, such as Regulation 3.896 of October 16, 2020, which introduced Adapta Brasil (classified as a regulation in the Monitor), a program to address the effects of climate change.
The problem is that this large volume of new rules makes it difficult to monitor changes in this area, especially actions classified as deregulation, flexibility, privatization, and institutional reform.
“Here, a lack of participation and transparency can cause irreversible damage from an environmental point of view,” said Natalie Unterstell, coordinator of the “Politics for the Whole” project from the Talanoa Institute and Masters in public administration at Harvard University (USA).
A possible example of this problem is the 4,410 shipment dated April 6th of this year. This is a change in the rules that are basically amnestying the logging companies of the Atlantic Forest, the most devastated biome in Brazil. The effects of the Order resulted in the justice of the case and a withdrawal of Minister Ricardo Salles (Environment).
“Broadcasts are generally not for things like that,” said Unterstell. “This arrangement signaled the intention to change the understanding of a law over 30 years old through an ordinary act. An order that seeks to change the application of the Atlantic Forests Act does not appear to be an appropriate means. “
The environment minister himself reiterated at a ministerial meeting in April that the government should use the attention society has been paying to the pandemic to “surrender the cattle” by using infralegale measures to take important action in the sector.
Shortly after the meeting was announced, a Folha report showed that the Bolsonaro government had accelerated the publication of environmental measures in March and May compared to 2019.
This report was also based on data from the Policy for the Whole initiative. The methodology has been revised in the last few months.
Suely Araújo, senior public order specialist at the Climate Observatory, former President of Ibama and member of the project’s panel of experts, lists other government acts released earlier this year that deserve attention.
One of these is Decree 10.455 of August 11, 2020 (classified by the Monitor as an institutional reform), which reformulated the structure of the Ministry of the Environment “with the creation of positions for political advisers”.
Araújo also cites Resolution 500 (deregulation) of the Conama (National Council for the Environment) of October 19, which repealed previous council resolutions, one of which concerned the protection of mangroves and which went against real estate interests in the occupation of coastal zone.
Conama was a body whose structure was reformed in 2019, which meant that the federal government gained broad decision-making power in the council.
Among the rules published this year, there are some that seek to discard rules that may be excessive or out of date given Brazil’s attempt to join the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), something that is dear to the heart of the Minister of Economy, Paulo lies Guedes.
The director of the economic division of the OECD, Álvaro Pereira, said on Wednesday (16) it was a matter of time before Brazil joins the organization.
At the same time, the report, released on Wednesday, also points to the problem of increasing deforestation and says the government needs to release additional resources to step up environmental monitoring efforts.
Another current law that can also be seen on the monitor is the Titula Brasil program, which was introduced on December 3rd by Joint Ordinance No. 01/2020. The standard was classified as a regulation.
The program aims to increase the operational capacity of land title and regularization procedures in Union or Incra (National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform) territories. However, implementation will be done at the local level, which is cause for concern.
Prosecutors working on land issues say the program could ultimately encourage land grabbing. There are concerns about the local pressures that can be introduced into the process.
However, according to the analysis by the Politician by Integer team, the law itself is only concerned with regulating one area that needs a solution. It remains to be seen how the government will apply the rule. “It’s a good example of how we’re trying to do a cold and technical assessment,” says Unterstell.
If, for example, the monitoring data shows changes in direction in the event of “revisions”, the question remains which specific plans the Bolsonaro government is pursuing to develop an environmental policy and how deforestation in the Amazon region can be contained.
“They try to make specific deregulations and flexibilities, and they don’t have a clear public environmental agenda,” says Unterstell.
Folha contacted the Ministry of the Environment, but there was no response until this report was published.
The Environmental Policy Monitor consists of data collected by artificial intelligence and analyzed by the Policy for the Whole initiative team. The automatic selection of the legal acts published in the Federal Official Gazette is based on the existence of terms that are or are not relevant to environmental and climate change issues, as well as on the consideration of the origin (public body issuing the standard) and the type (project of law, law , interim measure, decree, ordinance, etc.) of the standard.
All recorded files are automatically framed in 22 subjects. Since there is often an overlap between topics in the same norm, this hierarchical order has been adopted based on a number of semantic and logical factors: quilombolas, Amazonia, water, indigenous people, tourism, transport, Antarctica, land, mining, institutions, science, sea , Disasters, agriculture, fisheries, pollution, forests, cities, energy, climate change, biodiversity and the environment.
Among the norms recorded, the Policy for Whole Checks team daily has those that have more impact on the public interest. The state of the current government’s regulatory agenda will also be assessed and the extent to which the federal administration simplifies public order, strengthens or resigns the stability of democratic rules, and creates instability.
The public signal can be given through the introduction of a new standard, the revision of existing standards or through revocation. For this purpose, a typology of public signs with 11 classes is used: regulation, deregulation, institutional reform, reaction, flexibility, neutrality, withdrawal, revision, revocation, privatization and legislation. There is no assessment of the impact of the standard (positive or negative).