World News

Brazil anti-deforestation agents protest working conditions

More than 1,500 workers at Brazil’s federal anti-deforestation agencies are demanding better pay and working conditions from President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, according to a letter they have signed, which was reviewed by Reuters on Wednesday.

The workers were tasked with executing Lula’s tougher stance on deforestation, a key plank of his campaign to re-establish Brazil as a leader on climate change, through issuing fines for environmental infractions, among other means.

Deforestation rates in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest have plummeted 50% in the first 10 months of Lula’s presidency, but the workers say they remain underpaid and overworked while Lula touts their success at the U.N. COP28 climate summit in Dubai.

The Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, is vital to curbing climate change because it absorbs vast amounts of greenhouse gases that drive global warming.

The workers at federal environmental enforcement agency Ibama and parks service ICMBio accused Lula of “disloyalty” and said their working conditions threatened the fight against deforestation.

Ibama chief Rodrigo Agostinho, a Lula appointee, said the workers had a valid point. “A good portion of the results on deforestation were the fruits of their labours,” Agostinho told Reuters on the sidelines of COP28. It’s a fair claim on their part, but we work with limitations.”

Agostinho said he expected to be able to hire more workers next year and blamed Congress for holding up budget approvals. Lula’s office, ICMBio and the Environment Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Deforestation rates had soared under Lula’s right-wing predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, who sought to open more areas of the Amazon to farming and mining, arguing it would lift the region out of poverty. Bolsonaro weakened the conservation agencies and openly criticized them for issuing environmental fines

Source: eNCA

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