Madrid, 26 February 2014. “In 2012, Brazil implemented new measures to protect its vast natural and ecological resources with the publication of the new Forestry Code which includes the regularisation of protected areas, the “APP” (Áreas de Preservação Permanente”), the legal reserve (which is basically an environmental restriction on the use of rural property land), as well as the lawsuits and procedures before the Supreme Court” regarding unconstitutionality. This is, without a doubt, one of the main challenges Brazil faces according to Rafael Feldmann, Brazilian lawyer from Mattos Filho, currently on secondment at Pérez-Llorca. Feldmann’s participation was part of a meeting held at the headquarters of this Spanish firm as part of the Conexión-Brasil initiative, a series of business working breakfasts launched by the Brazil-Spain Chamber of Commerce (www.ccbe.es).
Furthermore, the Brazilian Constitution also includes the rights of indigenous people, including their right to prior consultation and benefits (Article 231). Feldmann also confirms that “the use of hydraulic resources, including energy potential, and the search for and extraction of mineral-rich indigenous lands can only be carried out with the authorisation of the National Congress after having consulting the affected communities and having ensured that they will benefit from the extraction, as the law states in this regard.”
Brazil has a large amount of environmental legislation, yet despite this legal complexity, legislation is fairly consistent. New infrastructure projects being developed in Brazil have strengthened this protection which also has strong State control with fines of up to 15 million Euros for breaching these rules. None of these projects can be carried out without an environmental permit.
Due to its importance, environmental protection has a very restrictive constitutional focus. According to Article 225 of the Brazilian Constitution “everyone has the right to an ecologically-balanced environment, for the common use of the people and being essential for a healthy quality of life. The Public Authorities and the community have the obligation to protect and preserve the environment for current and future generations”. This dual obligation of the Public Authorities and the community to defend it “is a key factor in understanding any Brazilian environmental rules” states Feldmann.
With a total surface area of 8,514,877 km², Brazil has the greatest biodiversity in the world, with 55 thousand different species of plants (about 22% of the world’s species) and about 62% of other types of vegetation. In the Amazon rainforest alone, there are 4,196,943 km² and 80.26% of other types of vegetation. With this in mind, Brazil is without doubt an environmental powerhouse whose leadership in the area of environmental protection was clearly evident at the UN Conferences (Rio-92) and also at the UNFCCC.