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Brazil Carries Out First Anti-Deforestation Raids
January 27, 2023
Profile photo of contributor Duncan Grieve
Special Counsel | White Collar Defense and Investigations

Last week, agents from Brazil’s environmental protection agency, the Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama), carried out the first significant environmental enforcement activity under the new administration of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (Lula), who assumed office on January 1, 2023. The anti-deforestation raids, which were accompanied by members of the press, took place in the rainforest state of Para within the protected Cachoeira Seca indigenous reserve with the goal of preventing loggers and ranchers from carrying out illegal deforestation and land clearance for agriculture. According to Ibama Environmental Enforcement Coordinator Tatiane Leite, additional raids were carried out in the Amazonian states of Roraima and Acre.

The reactivation of meaningful environmental protection enforcement in Brazil under Ibama and other federal agencies is a clear policy priority for Lula’s new Minister of the Environment, Marina Silva. Under the prior administration of former President Jair Bolsonaro, responsibility for enforcement action responding to illegal deforestation was moved away from Ibama to the Brazilian military and later the Ministry of Justice. Ibama’s effectiveness was also impeded by reductions in federal funding and restrictions preventing Ibama agents from speaking to the press.

As we have reported recently, Lula and his new government have made significant environmental promises, including a commitment to end deforestation in the Amazon by 2030. Marina Silva and the Minister of Finance, Fernando Haddad, spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 17, 2023 in a session outlining Brazil’s new economic and environmental roadmap. The event was a pitch to international investors, with Haddad stressing the new administration’s commitment to fiscal responsibility while acknowledging the significant challenges posed by Brazil’s high levels of social spending. Silva outlined Brazil’s ambitious targets for climate and biodiversity, restated her commitment to return Brazil to world leadership on environmental protection and also offered to host COP30 in the Amazon. In comments reflecting the COP27 agreement on “Loss and Damage” funding, Silva called for developed countries to make good on existing commitments, stating that “We have good global regulation but the investments are lacking. The $100 billion that was pledged by the developed countries is still not here. We need to have resources for mitigation and adaption.”

Taking the Temperature: Ibama’s recent high-profile enforcement action and the public statements issued by Silva and Haddad are designed to signal to the international community that Lula’s new administration is serious about implementing its ambitious environmental policies. As we have previously described, Brazil stands to be a significant beneficiary of international funding for environmental protection initiatives if it can demonstrate tangible progress on environmental protection initiatives, particularly by reducing deforestation in the Amazon. Major international funding initiatives such as the Amazon Fund depend on Brazil maintaining the confidence of the donor governments. As described in recent editions of Cadwalader Climate, international investors will now be keenly watching for similar positive progress on Brazil’s environmental regulatory agenda and upcoming renewable energy concessions.

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