Brazil Issues Fewest Number of Environment Fines in 24 Years

Aerial view of burned areas in the state of Rondônia in August 2019.

Aerial view of burned areas in the state of Rondônia in August 2019. Victor Moriyama / Greenpeace

Brazil’s environment agency last year gave out its lowest number of fines for breaking environmental laws since 1995, Reuters reported. This is despite a devastating surge in deforestation and fires in the Amazon, with nearly 90,000 blazes detected from January to October and more than 2.2 million acres of forest burned.

According to Reuters, the federal environment agency, known as IBAMA, issued 12,266 fines for environmental infractions in 2019, a 17 percent drop from the previous year and the lowest number in 24 years. The decline follows the election of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro in early 2019, who pledged on the campaign trail to fight “an industry of fines,” greenlight the expansion of agriculture and extractive industries in the Amazon, and prevent demarcation of “a single centimeter more of indigenous land.”

Bolsonaro’s administration has also ordered IBAMA to announce in advance when and where it plans to visit suspected illegal logging sites, Mongabay reported. The administration also fired or didn’t replace 21 out of 27 environmental superintendents who tracked deforestation and issued fines, and its seizures of illegally harvested timber dropped to almost nothing. While IBAMA doesn’t often collect the fines it issues for breaking environmental laws, the tool is useful in other ways. If a farmer or business has a fine on its record, it can be difficult to access new credit, Reuters reported.