By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Government investments to combat deforestation in the Amazon region steeply declined during the period between former President Luís Inácio Lula da Silva’s last term and President Dilma Rousseff’s first term in office according to a report released on Tuesday, March 31st by InfoAmazonia. The report, “Deforestation Policies”, conducted an analysis of investment budgets allocated and disbursed by the federal government to the region for the control and monitoring of deforestation as well as for sustainable development of the region.
“In her first term, Dilma Rousseff spent less than a third (3.6 times less) of that invested during Lula’s second term in combating deforestation in the Amazon,” InfoAmazonia stated.
According to the report, President Lula spent R$6.4 billion (approximately US$2.02 billion) in the region from 2007 to 2010, while President Rousseff invested only R$1.8 billion (approximately US$570 million) from 2011 to 2014, a 72 percent decline.
Official deforestation numbers in Brazil have been calculated by government agency INPE (National Space Research Institute) since 1988. According to the institute, deforestation rates in the Amazon region reached peak levels in 1995, totaling more than 29,000 square km per year, before significantly declining in the following years.
In 2002, with once-again rising deforestation indexes, and pressured by both domestic and foreign public opinion, President Lula created an inter-cabinet work group to design policies to decrease deforestation rates in the Amazon. In 2004 the government launched the PPCDAM (Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Amazon Region). Due to government action, deforestation declined to one of its lowest rates in 2012, registering less than 5,000 square km of land clearing in the region.
But according to deforestation specialist and former director of the Department of Deforestation at the Ministry of Environment, Mauro Oliveira Pires, as the data improved, the program deteriorated. “As the deforestation policy itself obtained positive results, it started to lose its political importance. It signals that it is still very reactive. Since [deforestation] is not a priority, it only garners attention when it is facing a crisis.”
According to InfoAmazonia several factors led to the deterioration of forest policies in the Rousseff administration, among them the changes in the Forest Code (2012), the reduction instead of the increase of conservation units to allow for the construction of hydroelectric plants, the halt in demarcation of indigenous territory and the political downgrading of environmental agencies, such as ICMBio and Funai.
“Rousseff invested seven times less than Lula in the development of sustainable activity in the Amazon,” says the report. Spending with sustainability fell from R$4.6 billion (US$1.46 billion) to R$638 million (US$200 million) in Rousseff’s first term.
In 2009, President Lula made a pledge at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, promising the country would reduce deforestation in the Amazon region by eighty percent by 2020. With the current deforestation trend and the decreased government spending, say analysts, it is unlikely that the pledge will be kept.