Will Brazil's new environment minister save the Amazon?

Posted by jamie — 21 May 2008 at 10:27am - Comments

Deforestation in the Amazon

After losing respected environment minister Marina Silva from his cabinet last week, President Lula of Brazil has filled the gaping hole left by her departure. But whether the new minister Carlos Minc has the same commitment to protecting the Amazon as his predecessor, we'll just have to wait and see.

Her resignation has been no small problem for Lula - it made the front pages of all the Brazilian papers - and finding a replacement was never going to be easy. Silva has an impressive track record of protecting the Amazon both in and out of government, but resigned after a long series of battles with agri-business executives, loggers and fellow ministers. On the face of it, Minc might be a good choice and in a meeting with President Lula he laid out a list of priorities - three of those relate directly to protection of the rainforest.

The first is to incorporate a zero deforestation plan into the Sustainable Amazon Plan announced by Lula a couple of weeks ago. This is the very same zero deforestation plan that we and other Brazilian pressure groups proposed last year, so big cheers all round if it happens. Minc also wants to maintain Silva's policy to stop public loans going to companies or people involved in illegal deforestation and other environmental crimes (Silva had been under pressure to cancel this policy), as well as creating a permanent force to police the Amazon. This all sounds good, but only as long it happens alongside social and economic development in the region.

On the other hand, Minc has also stated that he wants to speed up the application process for getting environmental licences, so some big projects which the out-going minister had been delaying with strict licensing procedures might get the go-ahead - these include various dam projects planned for the Amazon. But we'll just have to wait and see if Minc's ideas become a reality or whether he's going to be more of a friend to the farmers and loggers than his predecessor was.

About Jamie

I'm a forests campaigner working mainly on Indonesia. My personal mumblings can be found @shrinkydinky.

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