Law and the Future of Brazilian Forests

July 23, 2010 12:27 pm — 12:27 pm
Washington, DC

Co-sponsored by:
The Environmental Law Institute
IUCN Commission on Environmental Law
University of Texas School of Law - Austin

In July 2010, a special committee of the Brazilian House of Representative approved a complete revision of the 1965 Forest Code. If the Bill is approved by the House, ranchers and farmers will receive complete amnesty for any type of illegal clear-cutting that happened until 2008. Further, deep changes will be made to the present Forest Code that -- according to environmental groups and public prosecutors -- will open up the doors to a major increase in "legal deforestation" in the country.

Brazil is home to a greater amount of tropical forest than any other single country in the world. It contains 40 percent of the world’s highest rate of forest destruction. Tropical forests—such as those found in Brazil—play a crucial role in the global carbon cycle and play roles as both sources and sinks of greenhouse gases.  Brazil is one of the world’s top 5 emitters of carbon dioxide, and 75 percent of emissions can be attributed to legal and illegal forest burning and logging.  Brazil has made a pledge to reduce deforestation by 70 percent by 2018, but major contributors to deforestation -- such as conversion to agriculture, pastures, and roads --  persist.

Justice Antonio Benjamin was appointed by President Lula da Silva to the High Court of Brazil in 2006. Prior to his appointment, he was an environmental public prosecutor in the State of São Paulo. One of the drafters of the 1998 Crimes against the Environment Act, the 2006 Atlantic Forest Act and the 2006 Forest Concession Act, Justice Benjamin is a professor of Environmental Law in the Catholic University of Brasilia and at the University of Texas School of Law. He is also the deputy-chair of the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law and the co-president of INECE – The International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement.