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Brazil minister says he will shrink, not replace environmental agency

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By Reuters
Brazil minister says he will shrink, not replace environmental agency
FILE PHOTO: Brazil's Environment Minister Ricardo Salles is seen during a meeting of the LIDE (Businessmen Leaders Group) in Campos do Jordao, Brazil, April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli   -   Copyright  AMANDA PEROBELLI(Reuters)

By Jake Spring and Lisandra Paraguassu

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil intends to reduce the size of its environmental policymaking body but does not plan to have it report to a new council controlled by President Jair Bolsonaro as his aides proposed last year, a government minister said on Monday.

Environment Minister Ricardo Salles denied an Associated Press report on Monday that the government is considering creating a new council that would replace Conama, the current policymaking body with nearly 100 members from all levels of government and society.

Instead, the government will seek to improve Conama’s efficiency by reducing its members, Salles told Reuters.

“Everything we’re hearing is that we need to improve efficiency and the model of doing business. There’s consensus that it needs to change,” Environment Minister Ricardo Salles said in a telephone interview.

“Having a body that has around 100 members is completely unproductive.”

Conama will continue to have representatives from the government as well as those outside of it, he said, adding that details of changes to the council are still being discussed.

Comments by the right-wing Bolsonaro during his campaign sparked fears among activists that he would broadly roll back environmental protections.

Brazilian nongovernment organisation Climate Observatory on March 26 published documents laying out the environmental vision of Bolsonaro’s transition team as he prepared to take over the presidency on Jan. 1.

One option would be to create a new environmental council consisting of “five or six” advisers close to the president, with Conama answering to the new council, according to the documents.

The Associated Press cited the documents on Monday in a report stating the idea is currently under consideration.

Salles said it was an old idea that was discussed but then discarded.

“This is not the ministry’s plan. These ideas were discussed in the transition and quashed four months ago,” Salles said.

(Reporting by Jake Spring and Lisandra Paraguassu; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)