President Jair Bolsonaro has approved a 24% cut to the environment budget for 2021, just a day after pledging to increase spending to fight deforestation
By Jake Spring
BRASILIA, April 23 (Reuters) - Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro approved a 24% cut to the environment budget for 2021 from last year's level, according to official numbers published on Friday, just one day after he vowed to increase spending to fight deforestation.
Speaking on Thursday to the summit organized by U.S. President Joe Biden, Bolsonaro pledged to double the budget for environmental enforcement and end illegal deforestation by 2030.
The U.S. government applauded those targets, part of a shift in tone by the far-right leader, although many environmentalists said they would not take the rhetoric seriously before seeing real progress.
Less than 24 hours later, Bolsonaro signed off on the 2021 federal budget that included 2 billion reais ($365.30 million) for the Environment Ministry and agencies it oversees, down from 2.6 billion initially approved last year, according to the official government gazette. Spending can be adjusted over the course of the year.
"The gesture of giving a speech yesterday isn't enough," said Congressman Rodrigo Agostinho, leader of the environmental caucus in Congress. "Brazil's government needs to do its homework."
Bolsonaro vetoed a list of environmental budget provisions worth 240 million reais, including outlays for environmental enforcement.
Bolsonaro's office directed questions to the Economy Ministry. The ministry said the environment budget now was in-line with what the president originally proposed, and the vetoes counteracted spending increases approved by Congress.
Late on Friday, Environment Minister Ricardo Salles posted on social media a request addressed to the Economy Ministry for 270 million reais in additional funding for environmental agency Ibama and parks service ICMBio.
A detailed budget listing individual expenditures has yet to be released, so it was unclear how much is set aside for environmental enforcement. A breakdown of Bolsonaro's vetoes listed 11.6 million reais being cut from the enforcement budget for Ibama.
After years of ever tighter budgets, the latest cuts threaten to completely paralyze environmental agencies, Agostinho said.
($1 = 5.4749 reais) (Reporting by Jake Spring; Additional reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Editing by David Gregorio and Cynthia Osterman)