Brazil is preparing to launch a new police bureau targeting environmental crimes and drug trafficking in the Amazon rainforest.
The centre, agreed to at the Amazon Summit last month, will bring together police authorities from eight countries connected to the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO).
As reported by Wood Central, the ACTO was pushing for a new agreement to end Amazon deforestation but fell short of the 2030 zero deforestation goals.
Instead, the eight countries – which include Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela — have a “new and ambitious shared agenda” to save the sprawling South American rainforest with the announcement of the Belem Declaration.
It will create an alliance to pursue individual deforestation goals by protecting Indigenous rights, with regional cooperation on water management, health and sustainable development.
Uniting the Amazon countries against criminal activity in the world’s largest rainforest is vital to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s effort to restore Brazil’s environmental credentials after four years of soaring deforestation under predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.
Upon returning to office in January, he vowed, “Brazil is back” in the fight against climate change.
“Brazil has resumed its leading role in tackling climate change after four years in which the environment was treated as an obstacle to the immediate profit of a privileged minority,” Lula said in a post on Twitter, alluding to the policies of his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro.
Implementing the initiative will cost the Brazilian government 9 million reais (US $1.83 million), and its annual budget will be 7 million reais, according to Valdecy Urquiza, the head of the Federal Police’s international cooperation directorate.
Speaking to Reuters, Mr Urquiza said the centre will guarantee coordinated action by police in the Amazon countries with “much more efficient results” to combat crimes, such as deforestation and smuggling gold, timber and wild animals.
“We expect to see a significant reduction in environmental crimes in the area and also action involving the entire Amazon region and not just a few isolated countries,” Mr Urquiza said.
In July, Wood Central reported that Brazil was responsible for 43% of the world’s total deforestation in 2022.
According to data from the World Resources Institute and the University of Maryland aligned Forest Watch, Brazil dominates the losses of primary tropical forests.
In 2022, the primary loss in Brazil increased by 14%.
In Amazonas state, which is home to over half of Brazil’s intact forests, the rate of deforestation has almost doubled over the past three years.
The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world, and 60% of it is in Brazil.
Due to the large number of trees growing there, it is often called “the lungs of the planet” because the trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.
Meanwhile, the fight against drug trafficking will also be one of the centre’s focuses, providing authorities with intelligence for cross-border investigations, said Humberto Freire, head of the Amazon and environmental crimes of the Federal Police.
“There’s no point in operating only in Brazil,” he said, adding that criminals in the region move around the countries of the rainforest to evade authorities.
Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela will also have representatives in the centre, which plans to start operations by December.
Urquiza said the unit could also support efforts by European and US authorities, as those are the leading destinations for illegal goods and products from the Amazon.
“As long as there is a consumer market for this illegal material, there will be pressure for this type of crime here in the region,” said Urquiza.
Police organisations such as Interpol, Europol and Ameripol will also be invited to join the centre, Freire said.
Last month, Wood Central reported that the Amazon countries are under increased scrutiny following the introduction of the European Union Deforestation-free Regulation (EUDR).
Under the EUDR, European companies must prove that their products do not originate from deforested or forest-degraded lands, or they may face substantial penalties.
The new law bans the sale of coffee, cocoa, cattle, palm oil, soy and wood connected to deforestation – and has been criticised by developing countries most impacted by the new legislation.