A Weakening of the National Environmental Agenda

Spotlight Activity: A Weakening of the National Environmental Agenda

Following Jair Bolsonaro´s election as Brazil´s new president, policies on with regards environmental preservation and climate change continue to fall behind.

The new president, since his time as a Congressman, has supported the idea that the Ministry of Environment works only with the aim of “collecting” resources throughout the “fines industry” and that native lands should be open for exploration as their demarcation “impedes development.

President Bolsonaro nominated Ricardo Salles as the chairman of the Brazilian Ministry of Environment. Salles, a lawyer who made his career within the public sphere, has had prior experience on environmental issues while working as São Paulo´s State Secretary of Environment. However, his tenure in office was problematic (including charges of bribery and fraud) and soon he was laid off.

Now, at his role as the main authority for environmental topics, Salles is still involved in polemics and controversial statements. After claiming in the national TV show “Roda Viva” that Chico Mendes, the legendary rubber tapper activist who was brutally killed in the late 80’s, was irrelevant and didn´t make any difference for today, Salles declared that a soy plantation in a demarcated native land in the Northwest of Mato Grosso, 1st Amazon spot he decided to visit as Minister, was not illegal. Accordingly to IBAMA (Brazilian Institute for Environment and Renewable Natural Resources), three illicit practices were detected: the cultivation of genetically modified organisms, the impediment of native flora recovery and natural-resources extraction activities. Not only IBAMA but also the Public Federal Ministry and even the Ministry of Agriculture pointed out the illegality of these practices in native lands.

It is still to see what policies will be put forward by Salles. However, he has been holding positions that are strongly against the Ministry´s agenda and is endorsing Bolsonaro´s environmental deregulation proposals. In this sense, Brazil´s ambitious targets assumed with the signature of the Paris Agreement, that hinges on, among others, reducing deforestation, may be in danger. However, more importantly, as the country is the main holder of one of the most important ecological assets of the world, the Amazon Forest, Salles´s attitude may jeopardize global efforts to address climate change.

Status: Falling Behind

Brazil assumed ambitious goals by signing the Paris Agreement. Such goals depend strongly on fighting deforestation and reforesting native forests, including the sustainable economic exploration of these areas. However, what Brazil has been facing throughout these last months is the weakening of its environmental agenda and those who should take action are, as a matter of fact, the ones fostering the rollback of such discussions.

Take Action

Mr. Ricardo Salles, Ministry of Environment,

Brazil holds a strong and leading role in the climate change agenda, and the actions taken locally have global impacts. The statements you gave and the ideological position you have shown publicly symbolizes a lack of commitment and a threat for the pursuit of a global target. Demarcation and preservation of native lands are goals not only assumed when Brazilian representatives signed the Paris Agreement but are also predicted by law. Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge that ESG topics are more frequently used as criteria by both institutional investors and investment funds when screening for prospects. So, the deregulation of environmental rules not only has the power to harm the climate itself but also cooperates for a weaker social-economic framework.


Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Ibama)
SCEN Trecho 2, Edifício Sede
Cx. Postal nº 09566
CEP 70.818-900
Telefone: (61) 3316-1212

Leave a Reply


Climate Scorecard depends on support from people like you.

We are a team of researchers providing information on efforts to reduce global emissions. We help make you better informed and able to advocate for improved climate change efforts. Donations of any amount are welcome.