For everything else that makes Jair Bolsonaro unique as a Brazilian president, he is also the first in the country’s recent history to pursue an explicitly anti-environmental agenda. Since taking office in January 2019, he has promoted deforestation in the Amazon for the sake of economic development, criticized the Paris Agreement and used nationalist rhetoric to vehemently reject European criticism of his handling of the massive Amazon wildfires in 2019.
Since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, Bolsonaro has slightly moderated his discourse, but has changed little in terms of his policies. Moreover, in what could be his last year in office before elections in October, he is pushing to enact three major anti-environmental pieces of legislation that await a vote in the Senate, after having passed the House.
The most important of these bills weakens the law governing environmental licensing. For three decades that law has been a major tool for environmental protection, setting precise environmental regulatory requirements for medium and large infrastructure projects carried out by the public and private sectors. The bill approved in the House is built on self-regulation by corporations for most development projects, requiring them only to declare that they are complying with environmental rules.