Strikes against Brazil’s environmental authorities begin to hit key parts of the economy

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A months-long strike by Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency is starting to take a toll on Latin America’s largest economy, leaving thousands of cars stranded at ports and stalling dozens of power projects.

Since the beginning of this year, around 4,000 civil servants from a range of government agencies that control a range of activities, including oil and gas licensing and fines for illegal deforestation, have been on the ground protesting low pay and poor conditions. Activities have been suspended.

Despite promises by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s government to strengthen government institutions that suffered under his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, workers’ claims have been slow to address environmental crimes. These include low staffing levels and lack of bonuses related to the risks faced by the government. .

The strikes also come as Brazil grapples with the human and economic damage caused by extreme weather events, including historic flooding in the south.

The most immediate impact has been a significant reduction in the number of fines handed out for environmental violations, according to Aceema, an organization representing environmental workers, in the first four months of this year compared to the same period last year. The number of cases decreased by 89% to 2,000. .

But as the strike enters its fifth month, several key infrastructure and economic sectors that by law require permission and stamps of approval from environmental authorities are beginning to take a hit.

Juliana Inhas, an economics professor at São Paulo’s Insper University, said the country’s overall growth was affected by the strike. “For an economy that no longer works,” she said. [robust]the scenario is very problematic,” she said.

The National Automobile Manufacturers Association estimates that 47,000 imported cars and vehicles are docked at Brazilian ports awaiting approval from Ibama, the administrative arm of the Ministry of the Environment.

The oil and gas sector has also been hit, with just three new exploration licenses granted since the start of the year. Crude oil is Brazil’s second largest export in dollar terms.

The Brazilian Oil and Gas Institute, an industry lobby group, estimates that the federal government has lost 1 billion reais ($200 million) in tax revenue as a result of the strike. It claimed that the sector’s overall revenue fell by R$3.4 billion due to the reduction in economic activity.

Dozens of power projects, including four thermal power plants and three wind farms, have also been suspended pending regulatory approval, Aseema said.

“The financial, political, environmental and social losses are inevitable due to the slow operation of environmental protection agencies,” said the association’s president, Kleberson Zabaski.

President Lula, a former trade unionist, has publicly supported workers’ right to strike, but his government has so far been unable to reach an agreement with labor leaders.

The industrial action also threatens to undermine Mr Lula’s efforts to be seen as a champion of the environment and his international standing as host of next year’s UN COP30 climate change summit.

Deforestation in the Amazon declined under Lula’s government, having sharply increased during his predecessor, but remained at low levels during the early stages of the strike action. In his first two months of the year, it was down 63% compared to the same period last year.

However, in the absence of field personnel engaged in command and control activities through institutions such as Ibama, ICMBio, which manages the country’s protected areas, and the Brazilian Forest Service, which monitors forest concessions, the destruction of Brazil’s biome could begin. There is. It will rise again, environmentalists have warned.

“Brazil will succeed in curbing deforestation in 2023 thanks to the strengthened efforts of these key environmental institutions, and the current dysfunction will undoubtedly lead to an increase in deforestation and land invasions. Amazon Watch Program Director Christian Poirier said.

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