The new code and the forest patch

The new code and the forest patch

By Raul do Valle, Attorney-Environmental Law and policy coordinator of the ISA

Now it’s the law, and has even number: 12,651/12, with changes made by law 12,727/12. After three years of intense mobilization, which began with the creation of a Special Commission in the Chamber of Deputies, in 2009, and the appointment of Deputy Aldo Rebelo (PCdoB-SP) as rapporteur, the Brazilian agribusiness finally has a forestry law to call her.

Made to his image and likeness, it is full of contradictions. Has a modern side, which provides for the creation of a geo-referenced system of registration of rural buildings to monitor, by satellite, the felling of forests. But it also has an archaic side, clinging to the roots of the State latifundiárias, and that unfortunately greatly your supplants innovative aspect. And it is this side that Brazilian society will have to deal with going forward.

With the new law, we now have two patterns of citizens: those who respect the rules previously in force (forest code) and those who have not respected. The first, independent of the size of the property, will have to keep 50 meters of forests around water sources (only the perennials, which have water all year round, because the others were without protection), 30 metres off of small rivers, the forests of the hill tops and slopes. Others do not need to have forests on hill tops and slopes, will have only 15 metres around springs and, depending on the size of the property, may not have riparian vegetation along small rivers (see table). For the first there is no specific compensation to them for having fulfilled the law investerings premie. For the rest there is no concrete incentives that convince them to have a tree more than the minimum (and minimum) required by law.

One of the most striking features of the new rule is its complexity and difficulty to understand it, which, consequently, become difficult at the time to implement it. The previous law, with all the problems that generalizations may bring, at least it was bread-bread, cheese-cheese. Everyone had to have riparian forest of the same size if you were on the brink of the same river. Everyone had to have legal reserve, and so on. Now depends on. Depends on what? The size of the property and, if deforestation in protected areas (area de Preservação Permanente e reserva legal), when it occurred.

A homeowner who had all his property cleared before 2008 will have to recover very little of the original vegetation, even one that for decades was protected by law. An average homeowner in the same situation will have to recover well, but still far fewer than in previous legislation. If deforestation occurred after 2008, however, the situation will be completely different for both. If part of the deforestation was before and after 2008, the situation will be different still. Hard to imagine as the landowner, who believed that the law is made by their representatives would bring “clarity” and “legal certainty”, will understand this confusion.

All this will generate a huge problem of monitoring. First because we do not have satellite images, with the necessary resolution and coverage for the entire country, to know what was cleared in 2008. Therefore, it is quite possible that deforestation made thereafter ending up getting into the “package”. Second, because the imagery of today’s satellites used for monitoring deforestation around the country don’t have the proper resolution for the restoration of 5 or 8 metres of riparian vegetation, as it determines the law for many cases. To make this possible, you will need to acquire high-resolution images, much more expensive than those currently available.

With all of these issues, it will take many years until we can again make analyses of the situation of illegal deforestation in a specific County or watershed, for example. Until recently it was possible, with satellite images, identify that certain points should be restored River as being less riparian law sent. Now this can occur only when all owners that have registered River bordering their homes and signed their commitment of regularization. There will be more analysis at wholesale, but only in retail, because each case is a case.

The major losers with the new legislation are those who live in regions most severely deforested country. Yes, because despite the National Agriculture Confederation (CNA) live hammering that the country has more than 50% of native vegetation preserved, she focuses mainly on Amazon. In certain basins of São Paulo, the country’s locomotive, there is neither 5% forest standing. Firewood is missing, is missing. And there is where there will be no restoration, because the agricultural occupation is ancient and immovable, for the most part, are small or medium-sized.

But even in the Amazon the impact will be great. First because many of the forest-protection rules that still resists the advances of the pastures have been eased. In more than 90 municipalities the legal reserve will fall from 80% to 50%. All huge meadows and rivers (over 400 thousand km2, or a State of São Paulo) are no longer considered permanent preservation areas and thus may be overturned. All intermittent Springs, abundant in areas of transition with the Cerrado could be cleared. But not only that. The amnesty granted to the deforestation of Cerrado (49% of the total area, concentrated in the Southeast and Midwest) and the Atlantic (76% of the total area) will undoubtedly be a stimulus to those who would like to go one step further than the new law allows. “If they could, why I cannot?”

And so we opened a new chapter in the history of our crumbling forest policy. With a new legal framework that is already patched, and brings the principle of protection of our submission to biomes “the country’s presence in national and international markets of food and bioenergy” (art. 1-A, § 1, item II), we have to move forward and see what will give.

Part of the damage produced by the law may be ameliorated in their regulations. For example, it will be necessary to prevent large and medium-sized owners register their properties in fragmentary form to win the right to an “additional anistiazinha”. Another part could be resolved with a coherent and robust set of economic incentives which, on the one hand, premiassem those who historically have kept their forests and stimulate owners to restore beyond the minimum established in the new law. There is, however, no sign of the Federal Government that is seriously considering something.

It remains to be seen what role will be played by representative sectors of agribusiness. If you are going to bet on deepening the added flexibility where the legislation and push the implementation of the law with the belly, to see if liquidate the Bill in a few years, or Finally, now we have a law drafted by them, will want to implement it. That’s the unknown that if desvendará from now on.



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