Brazil's Congress passes divisive new forest law

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Brazil's Congress passes divisive new forest law

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Environmentalists in Brazil claim officials have backtracked on plans to ensure large swathes of the Amazon are reforested.

A new law, just passed by Congress, requires millions of hectares of already cleared rainforest land to be replanted.

Government officials have lauded the plans claiming that getting farmers to back the new code was critical. In return for incentives and political support, both farm production and the environment will benefit, they say.

The new code allows greater leeway in how farmers can calculate the proportion of forested land that they own.

But activists said Brazil’s farming lobby had campaigned to minimise the land-owners responsibilities and that the new law is tantamount to an amnesty for farmers and loggers.

Brazil’s former environment minister Sarney Filho claimed the law represents an enormous step back: “Brazil is the world’s fourth worst emitter of greenhouse gases. But unlike other countries, we emit this gas by generating energy, not because of industrial pollution. We do it because of deforestation.

“Now we will fall back in the progress we’ve made in reducing deforestation by changing our legislation,” added Filho.

The proposals are being closely watched around the world, especially as Brazil is seen as a reference point for how other developing nations manage their woodlands.

Officials said an area roughly the size of the UK would be reforested as a result of the new code.