Some of the world’s biggest technology companies are behind a Brazilian lobby group that made a project used as a basis by the Ministry of Economy to try to eliminate important environmental regulations.
Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and other big techs are part of the Competitive Brazil Movement (MBC), created and maintained essentially by the Gerdau steel company, one of the largest companies in Latin America.
Amazon and Microsoft are “master associates” and “sponsors” of the MBC, as is Itaú Unibanco, the big Brazilian bank.
Among the MBC’s “maintaining members” are Google, Facebook, Intel, IBM, Oracle, Motorola, SAP, Qualcomm and Huawei, among others.
The group is also formed by giant companies from different segments, such as 99, Airbnb, Braskem, JBS, Novartis, Localiza, Suzano, Toyota, Telefonica and others.
The Ministry of Economy package sent to the Ministry of the Environment includes the suggestion of “waiving the reuse of tailings and mining waste from environmental licensing”, which has the enormous potential of causing even more damage to communities that already live with a process of licensing which is flawed and almost entirely co-opted by mining companies.
Entitled “Brazil Cost Reduction Project”, the series of measures passed on by Minister Paulo Guedes to Ibama, the Brazilian environmental agency, which has a deadline of September 30 to respond, also includes:
- extinguish the list of the National Environment Council that defines cases in which a prior environmental impact study is required;
- provide for the granting of licenses due to the lapse of time, due to the delay in analyzing the requests for environmental licensing;
- revoke the rules on authorization to suppress native vegetation that apply specifically to the Atlantic Forest biome, as well as reduce IBAMA’s participation in these authorization processes;
- altering the IBGE biome map, excluding areas with Cerrado characteristics from the Amazon delimitation;
- cancel consultation with IPHAN for agroforestry enterprises;
- reduce the requirements for the manufacture of export-oriented pesticides, with the aim of making the country an agrochemical production hub.
The measures aiming the two most affected brazilian biomes – Mata Atlântica and Cerrado – as well as the Amazon rainforest, under massive threat by Bolsonaro government.
The Climate Observatory, which represents several environmental organizations in the third sector, rejected the package.
For Alessandra Cardoso, political advisor at the Institute for Socioeconomic Studies (Inesc), the document reinforces the “irresponsible character and despair” of the current government. “The meager growth of the Brazilian economy, the loss of productivity and competitiveness are not the fault of the country’s environmental legislation. This type of act, in disrespect for the laws and the National Congress, only shows that what we have today is a criminal management of the environment”, she said.
Sought to comment on the participation in the MBC, the measures sent by the Ministry of Economy, the technical justifications used to prepare the proposals and the exact participation of its executives, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft did not respond until this text was published.
Google said it “has nothing to comment” and that the answer should be left to the MBC. The SAP press team sent the following note to the Mining Observatory, mentioning the MBC, which had not spoken, as well as the Ministry of Economy and Environment.
“Over the last 20 years, the MBC has defended Brazilian competitiveness based on a sustainable economy, focusing on the pillars of governance and management, reduction of the Brazil Cost, digital transformation and education. In light of this, the MBC clarifies that in 2019 it carried out a project to diagnose the Brazil Cost in partnership with the Ministry of Economy with the objective of measuring the obstacles in various areas. In this study, there are no proposals for initiatives, only indicators and comparisons with the OECD.
In a second stage, the MBC supported the Ministry of Economy, in a technical way, in the mapping of initiatives that already exist or are under development in the federal government that could contribute to reducing the Brazil Cost, without entering into the merits or defense of such proposals. We do not participate in the elaboration or debate of the proposals mentioned in an official letter from the Ministry of Economy. Therefore, we reiterate our position in defense of a national policy of social, environmental and economic sustainability.”
I also looked at the policy regarding “sustainability” of the 4 big techs companies: Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook.
Microsoft argue that “is accelerating progress toward a more sustainable future by reducing our environmental footprint, accelerating research, helping our customers build sustainable solutions and advocating for policies that benefit the environment”.
Amazon pledges that “are driving toward a net-zero carbon future where the people that support our entire value chain are treated with dignity and respect”.
“We unify our practices, partnerships, and products around a single mission — to foster sustainability at scale. By organizing information about our planet, and making it actionable through technology, we help people make more positive impact together”, says Google, arguing that are Carbon neutral since 2007 and wanna be Carbon free by 2030.
“We believe sustainability is about more than operating responsibly; it’s an opportunity to support the communities we’re a part of and have a positive impact on the world”, says Facebook.
Newly launched Parliamentary Front has the support of the MBC and the National Confederation of Industry
The MBC acts as executive secretary of the “Parliamentary Front for Competitive Brazil”, launched in July, chaired by federal deputy Alexis Fonteyne (Novo/SP) and composed of more than 200 parliamentarians, including senators and deputies.
The Front’s stated objective is “to work to reduce the Brazil Cost”. The environment, apparently, is considered an enemy of the country.
The legislative agenda to reduce what they consider this cost was launched on September 1st with the presence of Paulo Guedes. The Economy Minister, one of the founders of BTG Pactual, accused and acquitted of defrauding pension funds and who worked in Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship, celebrated the formation of the Front and praised the “reformism” of Congress.
This is the same ultraliberal agenda of the University of Chicago, Guedes’s “alma mater” and which guided the destruction of the Chilean economy during the dictatorship, including the privatization of essential services and the miserable social security it bequeathed to the population of Chile. A heritage that the country is still trying, with great difficulty, to overcome.
The president of the Superior Council of the Competitive Brazil Movement, Jorge Gerdau, said he was “extremely optimistic” with the current situation and with the launch of the Legislative Agenda of the Parliamentary Front for Competitive Brazil.
“We have these three structures – Executive Power, Legislative and the business sector, with the support of the CNI – really engaged in achieving our objectives of reducing the Brazil Cost”, stressed the businessman. Theoretically, the objective of this group of entrepreneurs, according to their criteria, is to reduce this cost to “zero”.
Gerdau’s net income in the first quarter of 2021 increased an incredible 1,016% in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020, reaching R$2.4 billion.
And this is not Paulo Guedes’ first move Against environmental licensing. In March, a decree published by Jair Bolsonaro, Guedes and Bento Albuquerque, from Mines and Energy, defines that minerals considered strategic will receive special treatment in the government.
These minerals are now included in the Investment Partnership Program (PPI) and will be analyzed by a Committee that will not have the opinion of the Ministry of the Environment or any Environmental Council or representatives of civil society.
Although licensing is restricted to competent bodies – such as IBAMA – the Committee will give opinions on the process, speeding up approval.
Members of Competitive Brazil Movement (MBC):
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