BRAZIL: President Bolsonaro accused of “crimes against humanity”

Data reported by WWF affirm that each year for the last 30 years we’ve seen fade away a portion of tropical forest equal to 12000kmq by mean, and in particular in the Brazilian region we are losing a surface equal to more then three football fields per minute. In addition, fires in Brazil raised up for 83% only in the last year, accounting for more than 73000 in all the Amazonian Forest. These data have particularly risen since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in Brazil. As a consequence, on 12th October he has been denounced to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the Austrian environmental ONG AllRise for “crimes against humanity”. The group has accused the president of not only facilitating, but also accelerating the destruction of the Amazon with the unsustainable policies that he has been carrying out since its first day as president. Bolsonaro’s office did not release neither a defense or a comment on the fact yet.

Bolsonaro’s politics is generating discontent

Recent times have not been easy on Bolsonaro, as economy falls, supporters diminish and discontent rises. This is not the first complaint against the president in for the way I which he carries out his policies, in particular when they affect indigenous people and when they’re about Coronavirus pandemic – on Monday, 11th October, he told journalists that he didn’t want to be “bored” by questions about the 600.000 Covid-19 deaths in the country, that make Brazil the second highest pandemic death tool after USA. This is also not the first time that the president has been accused in front of the ICC, but this is the first time that his operations permitting Amazon destruction are seen as causes for the aggravation of climate change and responsibility is added for the connected health impacts that it will have: in the filing it is claimed that Bolsonaro’s administration is going to cause more than 180.000 deaths as a consequence of heating by the end of the century. Briefly, this time the complaint seems to give to the so-called “lungs of the Earth”, the Amazonian Forest, their actual relevance.

Bolsonaro policies have wanted to, has himself stated, exploit the forest “in a reasonable way”. He, as climate change negationist, had always designed environmental policies as an obstacle for economic development. If up until the beginning of its mandate policies to protect the environment were few, he succeeded in reducing them even more, by changing or eliminating existing policies and by sorting out new ways to make use of the green area. For example, as soon as he took the power he assigned indigenous reserves, previously managed by indigenous people themselves, to the Agricultural department to make place for new cultivable fields. Its responsibilities don’t stop here: in Brazil exists a law prohibiting landowners to deforest more than one fifth of their lands; the year in which Bolsonaro became president, sanctions due to this rule have been diminishing of 70% with respect to the previous year, leaving most of landowners unpunished and increasing the number of trees cut down. As a consequence of all these data, it’s not surprising that deforestation in 2020 is 128% higher than the target defined in 2009, when on the contrary, we were in an improving situation.

The scary truth behind Amazon deforestation

The main problem with Amazon deforestation is the progressive and increasing loss of the so-called primary or virgin forest, that is an ecosystem untouched by man (virgin, in fact) extremely important for life on the planet because it’s the only entity capable of absorbing such big quantities of CO2. The amazon forest isn’t the only one counting a primary forest, but is one of the biggest on Earth, capable of absorbing up to 200 billions of tons of carbon dioxide; the primate goes also to Brazil for being the first country worldwide in destroying primary forest. With less trees, this capacity is consequently reduced. in 2020 in the world 4 millions hectares of primary forests have been destroyed by either men or fires (12% more than in 2019), letting in the atmosphere more than two billions and an half additional tons of CO2; Amazon in this loss accounts for two millions of hectares.

We have already lost 17% of the Amazon Forest, meaning tenths of billions of trees cut down. When deforestation will reach 20-25%, we will have the point of no return, that means that global heating will lead overall temperatures up to a critical level that will conduct to irreversible consequences. Scientists predict that, if the current policies don’t change, in 2030 this percentage will equal 27%. The effects will reverse not only on the indigenous people and America inhabitants, but also on the rest of the planet.

Will the complaint be able to change the direction of the president?

The Brazilian Climate Observatory is unsure that this filing will change Bolsonaro’s way of governing, but could at least push other actors and key decision makers in the country to change the way they operate and the objectives they pursue. Moreover, this could also put shadows on Brazil when Bolsonaro will take part to UN COP26 to show that its country can lead an agricultural intensive production without damaging progresses to fight climate change. Still, this is a little part of the game: the entity stated that Brazil should completely stop deforestation by 2030 and at the same time reforesting 14 millions of hectares. It is unlikely that Bolsonaro will change policy to meet environmental requirements, but something has to be done to save the forest.

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