Brazil Congress passes forest bill; keeps Rousseff’s changes

Reuters Point Carbon, 26 de setembro de 2012

BRASILIA/SAO PAULO – Brazilian Congress approved on Tuesday the latest version of a revamped forest legislation keeping the crucial changes made by President Dilma Rousseff in May and giving the country a set of rules to finally regulate land use.
Senators approved the Forest Code draft that was already passed by the lower house last week. The bill now heads to the president’s desk. 
Once signed into law, the new legislation will open the way for a five-year compliance period, when agricultural producers are expected to restore millions of hectares of forests that were illegally destroyed in the last decades. 
Last May, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff had vetoed several controversial sections of an earlier version of the bill passed by the Congress, scrapping measures that would pardon thousands of landowners that had illegally cleared some of their forests before 2008. 
Rousseff made more than 30 changes to the bill and sent a new draft to the Congress, where it was approved. 
The restoration of forests all over the continent-sized country will be gradual and proportional to the size of the farms – larger areas will have larger reforestation targets, while smaller producers could restore less. 
The legislation obliges landowners to keep 80 percent of the forests in the Amazon biome, 35 percent in the center-west Cerrado (Savanna) and 20 percent in other areas of the country. 
The bill also requires landowners to produce a set of dada, including satellite images, called CAR (Rural Environmental Cadastre), to allow for governments to check if their areas are in compliance with the law. 
They will have five years to produce the data and to restore any deficit in forests. If they fail to do so, they could suffer legal action and will be excluded from official loans. 
But the code allows landowners that have forests in excess of what is required to trade “forest credits” with others that have deficits. 
The BVRio (Bolsa Verde do Rio de Janeiro), a new green exchange launched by former Ecosecurities founder Pedro Moura Costa, plans to set a market for those credits. 
Environmentalists criticized some aspects of the bill, such as the smaller required strip of vegetation in riverbanks compared to the older legislation and the possibility opened to landowners to restore deforested areas with exotic trees. 
By its side, the agricultural lobby criticized the lack of financing for landowners to restore forests and the costly CAR database. 
Senator Katia Abreu, president of the powerful National Confederation of Agriculture (CNA), said the Congress obtained a consensus while dealing with the issue. 
“The legislation is not perfect, because there is no such a thing, but it achieved what was possible to achieve. I am pretty sure agricultural producers will comply with the new law,” she said after the vote in Brasilia. 
By Maria Carolina Marcello and Marcelo Teixeira