Civil society takes Bolsonaro to the court on climate protection
Organizations, the Brazilian association of public prosecutors and parties move three lawsuits against the government for allowing illegal timber exports and freezing climate funds.
Two civil society organizations, Abrampa (the Brazilian association of public prosecutors), and four political parties moved today, in the World Environment Day (June 5th), three lawsuits against the Jair Bolsonaro administration, on climate and forest protection counts. They claim Environment minister Ricardo Salles and his aide Eduardo Bim, head of Brazil’s environmental protection agency (Ibama), have committed illegal acts and omissions by allowing uninspected timber exports and by freezing Brazil’s two biggest climate-related funds.
All three lawsuits are based on legal analysis done by Observatório do Clima (OC), a network comprising 50 civil society organizations in Brazil. The technical documents conclude that the government has put the Amazon forest and the global climate in jeopardy out of ideology, and also has willingly forgone its law enforcement role by giving in to demands of the timber sector against their own experts’ advise.
The first lawsuit was moved by Abrampa, Greenpeace and Instituto Socioambiental in the federal justice of the state of Amazonas. It demands the overturning of a decision by Eduardo Bim allowing timber loads to be exported without specific authorization from Ibama accompanied by an inspection. Bim signed the dispatch in February, 20 days after the timber exporters’ association of the state of Pará (Aimex) requested the end of inspections, which they claimed to be “cumbersome” and “obsolete”. A technical expert group within Ibama issued a memo cautioning against the end of inspections. Bim not only ignored it but also demoted the leading expert who signed the memo.
The second and third lawsuits were moved by PSB, PSOL, PT and Rede Sustentabilidade, four opposition parties, in Brazil’s Supreme Court. They demand the immediate resumption of the Amazon Fund (Fundo Amazônia) and the Climate Fund (Fundo Clima), the key financial mechanisms that would enable Brazil to fulfill its pledges under the National Climate Change Policy Law and the Paris Agreement. Both funds have been frozen for one year and a half, ever since Bolsonaro government took office.
As a result, the Amazon Fund, the world’s biggest REDD+ (reduction of emissions from deforestation) project, was left in a limbo. Today, R$ 1.5 billion (about US$ 300 million) are frozen in the fund and couldn’t be used even last year to fight the Amazon fires. “This is an ideological and calculated omission, that can only be reverted by the courts”, says the lawsuit.
Also key to Brazil’s climate governance is Fundo Clima, a pioneering initiative formally established in 2009 to fund mitigation and adaptation actions with oil royalties (public finance) and special-interest loans (through BNDES, a public bank). In his day one in office, minister Salles dissolved the climate change secretariat, the government body in charge of Fundo Clima. In April, a Bolsonaro decree extinguished the fund’s managing committee. As a result, the fund remained frozen for the whole year. Only in November, hard-pressured to respond to international criticism before COP25, did the minister reform the committee – in a rigged composition that excluded civil society and academia – and authorize the spending of US$ 140,000 (out of US$ 1.6 million of the public finance share), which to date hasn’t been paid yet. The lawsuit demands the fund to be immediately unfrozen and a plan to use the resource to be issued in 60 days.
“Climate governance in Brazil was stalled at the critical moment when the country needed to start implementing its NDC. That did not happen because of an external shock — it was the government’s own doing”, said Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of Observatório do Clima. Astrini recalls the words of Salles himself during a closed-doors ministerial meeting in April that had its records disclosed by order of the Supreme Court. Salles said he feared being “knocked out in the courts” in its deregulatory frenzy. “That’s precisely what we are helping those organizations do”, said Astrini.
Observatório do Clima is a brazilian network of 50 NGOs and social movements. It was formed in 2002 to advance the dialogue, public policy and decision-making processes on climate change within Brazil and globally.
Solange A. Barreira
+ 5511 9 8108-7272
+5561 9 9825-4783