Brazil's far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro threatens to strip powers from government environment agencies

President-elect and renowned climate-sceptic says agencies will no longer impose 'fines all over the place'

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Sunday 02 December 2018 14:25
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John Bolton praises 'like-minded' Bolsonaro

Jair Bolsonaro has criticised the Brazilian government’s environment agencies and said he will strip them of their powers to impose “fines all over the place”.

A renowned climate sceptic, Brazil’s incoming far-right president has previously said he will build a motorway through the Amazon rainforest and pull out of the Paris agreement.

Mr Bolsonaro, who himself owes 10,000 reais (£2,026) in fines for illegally fishing in 2012, said he wanted to remove enforcement powers from agencies tasked with protecting the country’s national resources.

“The party is over,” said the retired army captain, according to AFP.

He was speaking at the Agulhas Negras military academy outside Rio de Janeiro, where he studied in the 1970s.

“I will no longer allow Ibama and ICMBio to be handing out fines all over the place,” he said, referring to Brazil’s main government environmental protection bureaus.

“I want to defend the environment, but not in a Shia way, as is taking place now,” he said, using the word “Shia” to mean radical.

While he said he would pay the money he owed, the president-elect said he was “living proof of the bias and bad work of some inspectors of Ibama and ICMBio”.

“This will stop,” he added.

His words echo statements made during his presidential campaign, in which he said environmental regulations were holding back development in Brazil.

Mr Bolsonaro also reiterated previous pledges to “integrate Indians into society” by scrapping existing native reservations, despite the wishes of tribes to maintain their way of life.

“My plan is to make Indians our equals … They have the same needs as us; they want doctors, dentists, television, internet,” he said.

Brazil recently announced it was abandoning plans to host next year’s key UN climate talks, and on Saturday Mr Bolsonaro said he had a hand in that decision. The official reason given was “budget constraints”.

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The new government will herald a stark change in Brazil’s direction since the nation hosted the crucial UN Earth Summit in 1992 that laid the foundations for current efforts to tackle climate change.

Not only has Mr Bolsonaro aligned himself closely with fellow climate sceptic Donald Trump, his foreign minister pick Ernesto Araujo has described global warming as a “Marxist plot”.

Though the president-elect has now backtracked on his original pledge to follow Mr Trump’s lead and withdraw from the international Paris climate agreement, there are still major concerns about his plans for the Amazon rainforest.

An open letter signed by major NGOs in October indicated that if plans to expand farming and mining in the forest go ahead, deforestation of one of the world’s most biodiverse regions will “explode”.

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