May 17, 2016

--Press release: For immediate distribution-­-

Environmental Emergency in Brazil

Conservative politicians in the Brazilian Senate are using the country’s political crisis as a smokescreen to push through a constitutional amendment—one that could have devastating environmental consequences, says a leading scientific organization.

The members of ALERT—the Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers and Thinkers—say the amendment, if ratified by the Brazilian Congress, would allow fast-tracking of major dams, roads, and infrastructure projects that would imperil the nation’s forests and indigenous peoples.

The amendment, known as “PEC 65”, was quietly approved on April 27 by the Senate Commission of the Constitution, Justice and Citizenship.

“One of the amendment’s provisions would prevent the cancellation of a public infrastructure project if a contractor had submitted even a basic environmental impact study,” said ALERT’s director, William Laurance from James Cook University in Australia, who has conducted environmental research in the Brazilian Amazon for more than 20 years.

“Such environmental impact studies have been heavily criticized for often being ‘quick and dirty’ assessments that fail to consider many indirect impacts of projects or the full range of environmental and social damage they will cause,” said Laurance.

“If ratified, the law would effectively gut Brazil’s environmental licensing process for infrastructure projects,” said ALERT member Thomas Lovejoy, a long-term Amazon expert and a former environmental advisor to three U.S. presidents.

The fear, say ALERT members, is that the public may be so distracted by the ongoing political crisis that led to the recent suspension of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, that they fail to appreciate just how serious the amendment would be.

ALERT members now see a key role for Rousseff’s successor, Acting President Michel Temer.

“This is a true test for President Temer and his new government: either veto PEC65 or go down in history as the government that allowed the Amazon system to fall apart,” said Lovejoy. 

“It’s a crisis in the making,” said Laurance.  “A law like this would be a complete game-changer for Brazil’s incredibly diverse environments and indigenous peoples”.

For further information contact:

Distinguished Professor William Laurance,
Director of ALERT
Email: (monitored continuously)