Public Policies

Autorship: Beatriz Moraes Murer e Silvia de Melo Futada

The protection provided through public policies reveals important advances on socio-environmental matters. This section offers a view of the socio-political landscape that addresses socio-environmental issues: the importance of the international context, national policies, conventions and agreements adopted: the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Paris Agreement, the Aichi Targets, the Sustainable Development Goals, ILO Convention 169 and others, biodiversity policies as well as assessments of recent governments. As well as information on cultural landscapes.


International environmental policies are critical to reducing impact of the model of economic development currently dominant in the vast majority of countries. This predatory model, which irreversibly interferes with ecological processes, is based on resource depletion and tends to consider processes directly resulting from it, such as environmental pollution, as 'externalities'. It is an unjust model, based on territorial expropriation and subordination of different ways of life to unequal labour relations, as well as other forms of socioenvironmental violence.

Although we can see evidence of public policies for well-being with direct benefits for shared natural resources in different civilizations, it was from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with the technical advancements of a model of civilization that endangers human and non-human life on the planet, that international agreements to directly impact the public policies of each nation state became more needed and more prominent. International environmental policies consist of guidelines and indications of how countries should act in a single world with finite resources and are usually adopted in meetings between world leaders who come together to adopt more sustainable goals or practices, in various sectors. Depending on their scope, international agreements may or may not need to be ratified by the national parliament of each country.

In the case of Brazil, if its population is today able to demand its rights to high quality water, to preservation of natural landscapes and protected areas, with the support of public authorities, this is due to the battles fought by the mobilization of civil society, whose achievements were intensified in the 1970s, leading to the establishment of international and national agreements. In Brazil, this mobilization involving experts and professionals of various areas pressured the Brazilian government into approving measures and establishing laws to reverse a growing scenario of destruction of natural areas. This mobilization and global awareness of the risks posed by environmental pollution, excessive consumption of fossil fuels and deforestation of tropical forests have had a great impact and have influenced national movements for environmental protection and conservation 1 and 2.

One consequence was the establishment of the National Environmental Policy(PNMA) (Law No. 6938 of 31 August 1981) which defined, for the first time, many of the rules and principles that now ensure a balance between economic activities and environmental conservation and, at the same time, can meet the needs of the population and establish protected territorial spaces, known as conservation areas 3. The PNMA contains principles related to governmental action such as: maintenance of ecological balance; planning and control of the use of environmental resources; control and zoning of activities potentially or actually polluting; and incentives for study and research on technologies for the rational use and protection of environmental resources. The aims of the Policy are to harmonize socio-economic development with the preservation of the quality of the environment and ecological balance; to define priority areas for conservation, to establish criteria for standards of environmental quality and standards for the use and management of environmental resources; and to impose, on the polluter and the plunderer, the obligation to restore and/or indemnify the damage caused, and on the user, a contribution of the use of environmental resources for economic ends.

This law resulted in a formal structure, known as the National Environmental System (SISNAMA), which brings together federal, state and municipal bodies and whose governing body is the National Environment Council (CONAMA), which sets its rules by means of "resolutions", establishing limits to economic activities that lead to environmental modification or degradation. This council is made up of representatives of federal, state and municipal government, environmental bodies, business sectors (industry, commerce and agriculture), traditional and indigenous populations and the scientific community. The Brazilian Federal Constitution, in its article 225, guarantees the right to a balanced environment for present and future generations, and assigns responsibility for this to all citizens, including public authorities. In the same article, the Federal Constitution assigns to public authorities the duty to protect biodiversity, the requirement for environmental impact studies for potentially polluting activities, and the establishment of specially protected territorial spaces. It was arising from this duty, and others based on international treaties, that the Brazilian government constructed its socio-environmental legal framework.

In this section we highlight some of the international agreements and national policies most related to the theme of this site and how they dialogue with each other.

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was opened for signature during the ECO-92, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It was signed and ratified by Brazil and its objectives are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources. The CBD is one of the most important international instruments related to environmental issues. It is a framework convention and, as such, provides guidance to other existing biodiversity-related conventions and has been ratified by 196 countries, including Brazil.

United Nations Conference on the Human Environment

The United Nations Organization was founded on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries seeking to maintain peace through international cooperation and collective security. It currently has 193 member states that agree to accept the obligations of the Charter of the United Nations, an international treaty establishing the fundamental principles of international relations. The four purposes of the Charter are: 1) to maintain international peace and security; 2) to foster friendship among nations; 3) to carry out international cooperation for the solution of international problems; and (4) to promote respect for human rights and serve as a centre of harmonization for the efforts of nations. Thus, the UN does not correspond to a world government, nor does it establish laws, but rather it seeks to resolve international problems and formulate policies on matters that affect all citizens of the planet.

In order to establish international policies, the UN may hold conferences on specific topics, bringing together governments and, as observers, representatives of multilateral organizations and civil society associations. The International Conference on Human Rights in the city of Teheran in 1968, where it was established that civil and political rights could only be realized when socio-economic and cultural rights were guaranteed. Another major conference that brought the socio-environmental issue to the fore, in the face of environmental problems that worsened significantly with the effects of economic globalization, was the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1972. It was at this conference that, for the first time, the international community met to discuss global environmental issues and economic development. , and became a historical milestone to address issues such as health, human rights, gender equality, hunger, among others. In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development, established by the United Nations General Assembly, published its report "Our Common Future" (commonly referred to as the "Brundtland Report", after its Chair Gro Harlem Brundtland, the then Prime Minister of Norway) and provided the definition of sustainable development: "development that meets the needs of today's generations without compromising the ability of future generations to have their own needs met".

Twenty years after the Stockholm Conference, he United Nations General Assembly decided to organise the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (also known as the Earth Summit, the Rio Conference or Rio-92), in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. At the same time as delegates from member states discussed public policies, funding for environmental preservation and ways of reducing pollution, non-governmental organizations and social movements meeting in temporary structures on Rio’s Flamengo Beach came together on a global scale, strengthening the environmental movement and networks like the Brazilian Forum of NGOs and Social Movements for Environment and Development.

Among the important texts emerging from Rio-92 and impacting Brazilian public policies were: Agenda 21 (a comprehensive global programme of action in 40 chapters); the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (a set of 27 principles by which the interaction of humans with the planet should be conducted); the Declaration of Forest Principles; the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In June 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Natural Development, also known as Rio+20, was held in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the renewal of political commitment to sustainable development. Considered one of the biggest meetings ever held on this issue, it was attended by representatives of 192 member countries, including Heads of State or Heads of Government, who proposed changes on several fronts, such as in the use of natural resources. The Peoples' Summit was a parallel event to Rio + 20, organized by civil society organizations and social movements from various countries. The event took place in the Parque do Flamengo, in Rio de Janeiro, with the objective of discussing the causes of the socio-environmental crisis, presenting practical solutions and strengthening social movements in Brazil and in the world.

AAccess information on the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-14), held in Egypt in November 2018 by by clicking here.

The 25th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP25) to the UNFCCC is scheduled to take place in Chile in December 2019, following Brazil’s decision to withdraw its offer to host it: UN: Rio +20:

The Convention on Biological Diversity consolidated into three broad objectives the different possible forms of conservation: the classic, with the establishment of areas with restricted access and use, sustainable use and the sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources. In classic conservation we find, in addition to the creation of protected areas, strategies linked to the protection and recovery of species, which can be both in situ (in the place where they occur) or ex situ (that is to say, in places other than where they naturally occur, such as zoological and botanical gardens or laboratories.

The second objective, the sustainable use of biodiversity, mainly concerns alternatives involving sharing and eventual negotiation over the use of land and its components, popularly termed natural resources. For example, economic-ecological zoning is in this group. The different actors have to agree on how natural resources are used in the different parts of the territory concerned.

The sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources. the third objective, is the most complex. The idea is that where the use ofe genetic resources in a region generates a benefit, this must be shared with the country or the area from which this genetic resource came. This is the classic case, for example, of medicines developed from active principles present in plants, animals or micro-organisms. According to the Convention, benefits arising from such use, such as profits from the sale of the drug, should be shared fairly and equitably with the resource holders. Although the idea is interesting, there are few mechanisms to effectively track access to and use of biodiversity resources, especially with advances in biotechnology and genetics. Associated to this, there is also the question of traditional knowledge associated with biodiversity. Thus, while on the one hand, the Convention legitimized local communities and indigenous peoples as fundamental for the protection and knowledge of biodiversity, on the other, it created an expectation of the involvement of these populations in strategies to share the benefits derived from the use of biodiversity.

See expert Nurit Bensusan's assessment of the new legal framework for access to genetic resources and traditional knowledge: Federal Law No. 13.123/2015, and Federal Decree No. 8.772/2016 which regulates it, here.

See further details in the Guide “Genetic heritage, associated traditional knowledge and benefit sharing” published by the Ministry of the Environment in 2017.

In this way, the CBD has been responsible for defining important global legal and policy frameworks for guiding biodiversity management around the world: the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which sets out the rules for the transboundary movement of living modified organisms (GMOs); the negotiations within the FAO to align its previous International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture with the provisions of the CBD, leading to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture; the Bonn Guidelines which, prior to the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol, guided the establishment of national legislation on access to genetic resources and the sharing of benefits arising from the use of these (including combating biopiracy); the Guidelines for Sustainable Tourism and Biodiversity; the Addis Ababa Principles for the Sustainable Use of Biodiversity; the Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Eradication of Invasive Alien Species; and the Principles and Guidelines for the Ecosystem Approach to Biodiversity Management. Negotiations under the CBD on an international regime for access to genetic resources and the sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of these resulted in 2010 in the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol.

Nationally, in order to implement its obligations taken on under the Convention on Biodiversity, the Brazilian Federal Government instituted, through Decree No. 4.339/20024, the National Biodiversity Policy whose objectives derive from those of the CBD. The aim of the Policy is to promote the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of its components in an integrated manner, with the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources, components of genetic heritage and traditional knowledge associated with these. Its implementation is entrusted to the Ministry of the Environment (MMA), which, in accordance with the 2002 Decree, should coordinate, through the National Programme of Biological Diversity, (PRONABIO), implementation of the principles and guidelines of Agenda 21, through the promotion of partnerships between government and civil society, promoting the decentralized execution of activities and aiming to ensure participation by interested sectors.

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol was an international agreement that established established greenhouse effect, and was negotiated within the framework of the UNFCCC. Among the events that preceded it were the First Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), completed in August 1990 and the opening for signature of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at UNCED in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. The Protocol was negotiated during the period 1995-1997 and adopted at a meeting in Kyoto, Japan in 1997. It entered into force on February 16, 2005, when the necessary ratifications by at least 55 percent of all member countries, collectively responsible for at least 55 percent of total 1990 emissions, were achieved. Brazil ratified the agreement on August 23, 2002, following internal approval given through Legislative Decree No. 144 of 2002.

During the first agreement period, between 2008 and 2012, 37 industrialized countries and the European Union committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by an average 5.2 percent of their 1990 levels. In the second commitment period, between 2013 and 2020, their commitment was to reduce emissions by at least 18 percent below the levels of the 1990s over a period of eight years

Although such reduction targets are important, they did not apply to all parties, only to industrialised countries 5. Developing countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and India, were not obliged to establish national reduction targets..

This difference in the treaty, i.e. the lack of mandatory targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by developing countries, was one of the arguments used by the USA for its non-ratification of the Protocol. However, despite not being obliged to set reduction targets, developing countries already accounted for almost 52 percent of global CO2 emissions and 73 percent of the increase in emissions in 2004. According to the Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency (AIE), in 2006 China surpassed the volume of carbon dioxide emitted by the US by 8 percent, becoming the largest emitter of this gas in the world and emitting on its own almost a quarter of the world total, more than the whole of the EU 6.

One of the reasons for the escalation of Chinese emissions is the burning of coal, which accounts for about 68.4 percent of China's energy output. According to the AIE report, 6, 40.5 percent of the world's CO2 emissions come from the burning of coal, considered to be the largest contributor to global warming.

Greenhouse effect and global climate changes

The greenhouse effect corresponds to the strengthening of a natural phenomenon fundamental for the maintenance of life on Earth: the retention of part of the solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface by the layer of gases in the atmosphere, composed mainly of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), NO2 nitrous oxide and water vapor, and without which the survival of most species would not be viable. The issue concerning this effect is its worsening, resulting from the excessive emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs).

The emission of GHGs are inherent to biological processes: enteric fermentation by livestock, animal waste, burning and decomposition of wood and foliage, among many other causes. However, the predatory development model that prevails in the great majority of countries, whether ‘developed’ or ‘developing', intensifies these emissions: in forests, through deforestation and environmental degradation; in urban environments, by lack of treatment and adequate disposal of solid waste; by processes of industrial production and burning of fossil fuels, such as gasoline and diesel, for example.

Faced with the characteristics of GHG molecules to retain heat, the worsening of the greenhouse effect was called "global warming". However, the consequences of this scenario may not be simply an increase in temperature; in fact, in some areas of the planet, the changes are the opposite - cooling is greater. Thus, to replace the term "global warming", the consequences of the worsening of the greenhouse effect have been called " global climate change", as changes in the global climate are perceived, associated with numerous social and environmental impacts.

Brazil's commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol guided the creation of the National Policy on Climate Change (PNMC), established by Law No. 12,187/2009 regulated by Decree No. 7,390/2010. The policy aims to reconcile socioeconomic development with protection of the climate system; reduction of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases; preservation, conservation and recuperation of environmental resources, with particular attention to the major natural biomes declared as National Heritage; and stimulation of development of a Brazilian Emissions Reduction Market (MBRE).

In addition, it involves integrated strategies for mitigation and adaptation to climate change at local, regional and national levels, support for the development of scientific and technological research, and the diffusion of technologies, processes and practices aimed at mitigating climate change through the reduction of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases by sources and the strengthening of anthropogenic removals by sinks and the promotion of information dissemination, education, training and public awareness on climate change.

Paris Agreement or Climate Convention

The Paris agreement is an international agreement establishing measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, such as CO2. The agreement is housed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and was adopted at the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP-21) in Paris on 12 December 2015. At the conference, the main purpose was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of global climate change 7.

The key elements of the Agreement are formulated as follows 8:

  • Long-term goal: governments agree to keep the world average temperature rise well below 2°C vis-à-vis pre-industrial levels and to make efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C
  • Contributions: before and during the Paris conference, countries submitted comprehensive national action plans to reduce their emissions
  • Target: governments agreed to report every five years on their contributions to setting more ambitious targets
  • Transparency: countries also agreed to report to other governments and the public on their performance in achieving their goals, to ensure transparency and oversight
  • Solidarity: the EU and other developed countries will continue to provide funding to the fight against climate change to help developing countries reduce their emissions and create resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Brazil, as a participant in international agreements involving the environment, has made commitments to the agenda. Among the commitments submitted are:

  • 37 percent reduction in toxic gas emissions by the year 2025;
  • 43 percent increase of this percentage by 2030;
  • Expansion of participation of renewable energy sources in the national energy matrix;
  • In the annexes to the document submitted to the UN, Brazil also committed to strengthening the Forest Code, reducing Amazon deforestation to zero by 2030 and expanding the sustainable management of native forests, among other measures.

According to University of Campinas researcher, Carlos Joly9: "Achieving the targets submitted by Brazil under the Paris Agreement would, for example, allow our country to reduce or eliminate deforestation, which is extremely important for the country. In the medium and long term, forests are worth much more standing than transformed into a field of soybean, which will only be productive for a limited time and will only benefit the owner or a group of people without providing a return to society as a whole, or to the population that lived there. "

Who participates in the Paris Agreement?

In 2016, the agreement was signed between 195 nations, including large polluters and countries immersed in wars or conflicts. On June 1, 2017, however, US President Donald Trump announced the departure of the United States. As one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, Trump's decision shook the agreement and provoked criticism from the international community.

By May 2019, of the 197 Parties to the UNFCCC, 195 had signed the Paris Agreement and 185 had completed the process of ratification. The two UNFCCC Parties who did not sign the Agreement are Nicaragua and Syria. Both subsequently announced in 2017 that they will sign the Agreement, although this has not yet happened. Ten countries, including the Russian Federation and Turkey, have signed but not yet ratified.

Although the USA has announced its intention to withdraw from the Agreement, legally speaking this cannot take effect until November 2020 at the earliest, although in the meantime it is unlikely to play an active role in implementing the Agreement or to honour its commitments.

Nicaragua, which had criticized the agreement reached in Paris with the argument that only a few countries were responsible for most of the emissions, chose not to sign. However, faced with the consequences of hurricanes in 2017, Nicaragua revisited this decision, announcing that it intended to sign the agreement.

The second poorest country in the Americas, Nicaragua accounts for 0.03 percent of emissions. On the other hand, it is in fourth place among countries that have most suffered from climate change in the last 20 years, behind only Honduras, Myanmar and Haiti.

Statistics confirm that poor countries suffer the most human and economic losses from droughts, floods, hurricanes and other increasingly recurrent and predictable weather disasters.

Aichi Targets

At the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-10) held in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture in Japan in 2010, the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 was approved 10. The Strategic Plan established a set of medium-term targets aimed at reducing biodiversity loss worldwide. Called the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, these proposals took the form of twenty targets. Organised into five strategic objectives, the twenty Aichi Targets are the basis of the current planning for implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity until 2020. It is important to mention that, for the targets to be met, the participation and involvement of the various sectors that generate impacts on biodiversity, including the private sector, are needed.

Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society.

Target 1: People are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably.

Target 2: Biodiversity values have been integrated into national and local development and poverty reduction strategies and planning processes and are being incorporated into national accounting, as appropriate, and reporting systems.

Target 3: Incentives, including subsidies, harmful to biodiversity are eliminated, phased out or reformed in order to minimize or avoid negative impacts, and positive incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity are developed and applied, consistent and in harmony with the Convention and other relevant international obligations, taking into account national socio economic conditions.

Target 4: Governments, business and stakeholders at all levels have taken steps to achieve or have implemented plans for sustainable production and consumption and have kept the impacts of use of natural resources well within safe ecological limits.

Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use.

Target 5: The rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, is at least halved and where feasible brought close to zero, and degradation and fragmentation is significantly reduced.

Target 6: All fish and invertebrate stocks and aquatic plants are managed and harvested sustainably, legally and applying ecosystem based approaches, so that overfishing is avoided, recovery plans and measures are in place for all depleted species, fisheries have no significant adverse impacts on threatened species and vulnerable ecosystems and the impacts of fisheries on stocks, species and ecosystems are within safe ecological limits.

Target 7: Areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity.

Target 8: Pollution, including from excess nutrients, has been brought to levels that are not detrimental to ecosystem function and biodiversity.

Target 9: Invasive alien species and pathways are identified and prioritized, priority species are controlled or eradicated, and measures are in place to manage pathways to prevent their introduction and establishment.

Target 10: The multiple anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs, and other vulnerable ecosystems impacted by climate change or ocean acidification are minimized, so as to maintain their integrity and functioning.

Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity.

Target 11: At least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.

Target 12: The extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained.

Target 13: The genetic diversity of cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and of wild relatives, including other socio-economically as well as culturally valuable species, is maintained, and strategies have been developed and implemented for minimizing genetic erosion and safeguarding their genetic diversity.

Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Target 14: Ecosystems that provide essential services, including services related to water, and contribute to health, livelihoods and well-being, are restored and safeguarded, taking into account the needs of women, indigenous and local communities, and the poor and vulnerable.

Target 15: Ecosystem resilience and the contribution of biodiversity to carbon stocks has been enhanced, through conservation and restoration, including restoration of at least 15 per cent of degraded ecosystems, thereby contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to combating desertification.

Target 16: The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization is in force and operational, consistent with national legislation.

Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building.

Target 17: Each Party has developed, adopted as a policy instrument, and has commenced implementing an effective, participatory and updated national biodiversity strategy and action plan.

Target 18: The traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and their customary use of biological resources, are respected, subject to national legislation and relevant international obligations, and fully integrated and reflected in the implementation of the Convention with the full and effective participation of indigenous and local communities, at all relevant levels.

Target 19: Knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity, its values, functioning, status and trends, and the consequences of its loss, are improved, widely shared and transferred, and applied.

Target 20: The mobilization of financial resources for effectively implementing the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 from all sources, and in accordance with the consolidated and agreed process in the Strategy for Resource Mobilization, should increase substantially from the current levels. This target will be subject to changes contingent to resource needs assessments to be developed and reported by Parties.

Access other COP 10 documents and details here.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the Global Objectives, make up a global agenda with 17 guidelines for combating poverty, environmental protection and ensuring that all people have peace and prosperity.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals:11

  • Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  • Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  • Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  • Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  • Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

The objectives are interconnected and form an agenda for global action in the areas of poverty eradication, food security, agriculture, health, education, gender equality, reduction of inequality, energy, water and sanitation, sustainable production and consumption patterns, climate change, sustainable cities, protection and sustainable use of oceans and terrestrial ecosystems, inclusive economic growth, infrastructure, industrialization, among others. The intention is to improve the quality of life, in a sustainable way, for the present and future generations.

"Poverty eradication is at the heart of Agenda 2030, as is the commitment not to leave anyone behind" says UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner. "The Agenda offers a unique opportunity to put the world on a more prosperous and sustainable path. In many ways, it reflects the goal of UNDP. "

The ODS were constructed through a global negotiation process, which began in 2013 and counted on the participation of Brazil in the discussions and definitions of the agenda. The Goals provide guidelines and targets for all countries to adopt in accordance with their socio-environmental priorities and challenges. In addition, the aim is to guide national policies and international cooperation activities until 2030, succeeding and updating the Millennium Development Goals.

Navigate here to the Dynamic Panel of the Ministry of the Environment that interactively shows the relationships between the goals of the Sustainable Development Objectives and strategic initiatives, goals, actions, events and indicators, as well as showing the evolution of activities undertaken by agencies supporting the SDG National Commission..

Ramsar Sites (Wetlands)

Author: Ana Paula Prates (Doctor in Ecology), 2010, updated in 2019.

The concept of wetlands was adopted by the Ramsar Convention. It is a broadly defined concept, that includes, in addition to different natural wetland environments, artificial areas, such as dams, lakes and reservoirs.

According to this definition, any area of marsh, swamp or peatlands, or water-covered surfaces, natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, containing still or flowing water, fresh, brackish or salt water, can be considered a wetland. Marine areas with depths of up to six meters at low tide are also considered wetlands.

The delimitation of wetlands selected by the contracting countries to be included in the List of Wetlands of International Importance of the Convention may comprise adjacent riverine or coastal regions as well as islands or extensions of marine areas.

The Convention on Wetlands, better known as the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that establishes frameworks for national action and cooperation among countries to promote the conservation and wise use of wetlands in the world. These actions are based on the recognition by the countries parties to the Convention of the ecological importance and the social, economic, cultural, scientific and recreational value of such areas.

Among the main services provided by wetlands are: periodic storage of water and its slow return to connected streams, streams and rivers, thus reducing water level fluctuations and the danger of catastrophic floods and droughts; recharging of aquifers and groundwater; sediment retention; purification of water; irrigation of crops; regulation of microclimate; recreation (bathing, fishing, leisure); ecotourism; biodiversity maintenance; storage of organic carbon; home for traditional populations; and supply of timber and non-timber products (fibres, medicinal plants, fruits, etc.), fish, agricultural and livestock products.

Adopted in February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar, the Convention has been in force since 21 December 1975, for an indefinite period. Member countries of the are known as "contracting parties".

As of March 2019, the Convention had 168 contracting parties and 2,186 recognized Ramsar sites, covering a total area of 208,674,247 hectares 11.

Brazil, which, because of its size, is home to a wide variety of important wetlands, signed the Ramsar Convention in September 1993, ratifying it three years later. This decision allows the country to have access to benefits such as technical cooperation and financial support to promote the sustainable use of natural resources in the wetlands, favouring the implementation in these areas of a model of development that promotes quality of life for its inhabitants. In order to join the treaty, each country must deposit an instrument of ratification with UNESCO, which acts as depositary of the Convention, and at the same time designate at least one wetland in its territory as a Ramsar Site to be included in the List of Wetlands of International Importance, better known as the Ramsar List.

The Strategic Plan of the Convention

Approved by the Conference of the Parties (COP), the strategic plans contain general objectives, operational objectives and strategic actions to be developed. The current strategic plan, for the period between 2016 and 2024, and all its provisions can be accessed by clicking here.

The Ramsar List is the main instrument adopted by the Convention to implement its objectives. It is composed of areas characterized as important wetland ecosystems, selected by the countries and approved by a specialized technical body of the Convention. Once accepted, these areas are known as "Ramsar Sites".

With this status, such humid environments will then be subject to commitments to be met by the contracting country and, at the same time, have access to benefits arising from this status. Such benefits may be financial and/or related to technical advice for the design of actions aimed at their protection. At the same time, designation as a Ramsar site gives wetlands priority in the implementation of government policies and in public recognition, both nationally and by the international community, which contributes to strengthening their protection.

The Ministry of the Environment acts as the focal point of the Ramsar Convention in Brazil, enabling the formulation of strategies, resources and means to implement the commitments undertaken.

Until 2017, the Brazilian wetlands included in the Ramsar List coincided with Conservation Areas already protected by the SNUC, which favoured the adoption of the measures needed to implement the commitments assumed by the country vis-à-vis the Convention. As of 2018, a new concept was developed with the objective of creating Ramsar Sites at the regional level including, in addition to other protected areas, other wetlands of international importance. Since its ratification of the Convention, Brazil has succeeded in including 23 Conservation Areas and two Regional Ramsar Sites, contributing 25 Sites to the Ramsar List. The placing of these areas on the List makes it easier for Brazil to obtain support for research, to access international funds to finance projects and to create a favourable scenario for international cooperation.

Access here a Map of Brazilian Ramsar Sites

In Brazil, wetlands make up 20 percent of the national territory¹ and, despite their vital importance, do not have legal status to guarantee their protection. It is only recently that some scientific institutions have concentrated their efforts on developing the ecological basis for delineating and classifying some of the major Brazilian wetlands and their main habitats. Such institutions include the National Institute of Science and Technology in Wetlands (INCT-Áreas Úmidas or INAU) of the Federal University of Mato Grosso (UFMT); the National Institute for Amazon Research (INPA); the Laboratory of Ecology and Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems (UNISINOS) in Rio Grande do Sul; and the Centre for Research in Limnology, Ichthyology and Aquaculture of the State University of Maringá (NUPELIA), in Paraná. As a result of these efforts, specialists of these institutions have made available in a single document the classifications for mangroves, permanent wetlands (veredas) of the Cerrado, parts of the semi-arid region, the floodplain of the upper Paraná River, the Pantanal and different habitats of Amazonian floodplains 12. This document also provides a critique of environmental policies, such as the revision of the Forest Code, in which wetland protection was not adequately addressed.

Advances in research and scientific inventories on wetlands, developed by several Brazilian researchers, have enabled the classification of different aquatic systems. According to the National Institute of Science and Technology in Wetlands (INAU), there is a wealth of popular knowledge scattered throughout the country. This knowledge attests to the diversity of ecosystems covered by wetlands and the biological and cultural richness associated with the history of the use and conservation of wetlands.

Other Conventions for Protection of Flora, Fauna and Landscapes

The Convention on Nature Protection and Wild Life Preservation in the Western Hemisphere and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Floraz and Fauna are two other international conventions ratified by Brazil which deserve mention. The Convention on Nature Protection and Wild Life Preservation in the Western Hemisphere, provides that countries shall take appropriate measures "to prevent the threatened extinction of any given species", including by selection of areas of national importance to be conserved under special protection. Article IX states that each country must take the necessary measures to control and regulate the importation, exportation and transit of protected fauna and flora. In Brazil it was ratified by Legislative Decree No. 3, of 1948, entered into force for Brazil on 26 November 1965, and was promulgated by No. 58,054, of 23 March 1966.

The The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES), which establishes protection for a set of listed plants and animals through the regulation and monitoring of international trade in them, particularly those threatened with extinction, aiming the maintenance of the species, in order to prevent effective extinctions in the fauna and flora].[The list comprises endangered species and species the trade in which must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival. CITES was ratified by Brazil through Decree Law No. 54/75 and promulgated by Decree No. 76,623 of November 1975..

The right to consultation and to prior, free and informed consent under Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization

In Brazil and globally, ensuring the effective participation of indigenous peoples, quilombolas and traditional communities in the decision-making processes of the State that affect them directly remains a challenge. The right to consultation and to prior, free and informed consent is provided for under Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Declaration of American States on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and has been amply reaffirmed in international jurisprudence. The challenges surrounding implementation of the right to consultation and consent involve misinterpretation and even misunderstanding of the right to consultation as regards the rights-holders, the subjects of its application, the opportunities for its implementation, the modus and expected outcomes of a process of free, prior and informed consultation. As a result, government measures, decisions, projects and programmes, as well as laws and legislative initiatives, are approved without the necessary information on, listening to and consideration of affected peoples and communities. In addition to identifying that in Brazil decisions, projects and government programmes, laws, legislative initiatives as well as jurisprudence, show inconsistencies in the understanding and implementing of the right to consultation and free, prior and informed consent, the book proposes a conceptual and practical deeper study of the subject. This scenario is even more serious if we analyse cases involving large enterprises, extractive activities and legislative bills. Up to December 2015, of the 3,000 enterprises with environmental licensing applications requiring the participation of the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) or the Palmares Foundation, none had carried out consultations with the affected traditional peoples compliant with international human rights standards. The right to consultation and to free, prior and informed consent gained national legal protection with the ratification of ILO Convention 169 on 20 June 2002, coming into force on 25 July 2003. The American Convention on Human Rights, in force in Brazil since 25 September 1992, and the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, approved by Brazil, also offer international protection by placing the right to consultation and to free, prior and informed consent on the list of fundamental human rights for indigenous and tribal peoples. Because they contain human rights provisions, these conventions have been incorporated into Brazilian law as supra-legal norms with immediate applicability, as recognized by the Federal Supreme Court.

Excerpted from the book 'Right to consultation and consent of indigenous people, quilombolas and traditional communities' by Biviany Rojas Garzón, Erika M. Yamada and Rodrigo Oliveira, published by the Amazon Cooperation Network in 2016. Access the full text here.

Species threatened with extinction

The extinction of species corresponds to the permanent disappearance of species from a given environment or ecosystem. It is an event inherent to the biological process and concomitant to the emergence of life on earth. It is as natural as the emergence of new species, and occurs independently of human actions, resulting from natural disasters, competition for food, space and other resources and genetic mutation, among other reasons. An example is the disappearance of the dinosaurs, which occurred millions of years before the emergence of the human species. The reason, then, for referring to the current rate of extinction of species as an event dependent on humanity, is related to the frequency and speed of visualization of that event.

In natural terms, the extinction of species, with the exception of natural disasters, is the result of a slow process that takes thousands or even millions of years to occur. However, human participation has led to an increase in the rate of extinction of species, making humanity the main force in triggering this process.

Through the overexploitation of environmental species and resources, such as water, soil, minerals and the conversion of environments to simplified production systems incapable of maintaining the biodiversity of habitats, species, processes and interactions, humankind has triggered a cycle of extinction of species without precedent in the history of the earth.

Direct and indirect changes by habitat conversion have led to an extremely fragmented landscape, dominated by agropastoral systems, abandoned areas of predatory and unsustainable extraction, expansion of urban settlements and increased production and incorrect disposal of residues and expansion of traffic flows, such as roads, railways and inland waterways.

These alterations increase environmental fragility and the degree of isolation among natural populations, reducing gene flow, even leading to losses of genetic variability. The introduction of invasive alien species is another important indirect change that has been growing to be one of the major threats to biodiversity.

The conservation of Brazilian biodiversity and the management of conflict between conservation and predatory development are among the major Brazilian challenges today. The Ministry of Environment, the central body of the National Environmental System, whose mission is to promote the adoption of principles and strategies for knowledge, protection and recovery of the environment, the sustainable use of resources and the insertion of sustainable development into the formulation and implementation of public policies, is responsible for a series of actions to guide this process. These are:

  1. he development of lists of endangered species, for the purpose of quantifying the problem and enabling the scoping of actions to solve it, among these the applications of use restrictions;
  2. the development, dissemination and implementation of specific protection and recovery policies;
  3. detailing a model of development that ensures sustainable use of the components of biodiversity.

Understanding the state of biodiversity conservation is the basic principle for systematic planning aimed at reducing the risk of extinction of species, ensuring their survival and, consequently, maintaining the functionality of socioecological systems.

Also, in relation to the preparation of the lists, the intention is that by identifying species threatened with extinction, guidance can be provided on the application of other environmental laws, such as increasing penalties under the Law on Environmental Crimes (Law No. 9.605/1998) so as to reduce illegal movement and trade in species, as set out in the annexes to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna and its guidance for programmes and action plans for the conservation and recovery of species of fauna and flora.

These lists are used, for example: in the definition of priority areas for the conservation of biodiversity, in the implementation of new Conservation Areas; in the definition of conservation guidelines and targets, and of mitigation measures for environmental impacts; in the licensing of projects; in access to genetic resources; in the management of fishery resources; in the management of forest resources; as well as in the application and orientation of funding for scientific research. Lists of endangered species are therefore an important public policy instrument, which must be used with wisdom and parsimony, in support of maintaining and recovering Brazil’s rich biodiversity, supporting decision making at local and global levels.

At the international level, Brazil has ratified the three Conventions that provide the legal framework for the differential treatment of species considered endangered: the Convention on Nature Protection and Wild Life Preservation in the Western Hemisphere; the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES); and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

At the national level, the Law on Protection of Fauna (Nº 5.197/1967), establishes that "animals of any species, at any stage of their development and living naturally outside captivity, constituting wild fauna , together with their nests, shelters and natural breeding grounds are the property of the State, their use, persecution, hunting or destruction being prohibited. On the other hand, the Forest Code ((Federal Law 4.771/65),notwithstanding controversial revisions, regulates the protection of native vegetation, with provisions for "general norms on the protection of vegetation, areas of Permanent Preservation and Legal Reserve areas, timber extraction, the supply of forest raw materials, control of origin of forest products, and control and prevention of forest fires, envisaging economic and financial instruments to achieve its objectives."

A CONABIO Resolution No. 3 of 21 december 2006, establishes National Biodiversity Targets and sets as one of its goals "a preliminary assessment of the conservation status of all known species of plants, vertebrate animals and, selectively, invertebrate animals at the national level". The Joint MMA and ICMBio Executive Order nº 316, of 9/9/2009, establishes the responsibility of ICMBio to evaluate the conservation status of species, the preparation of National Lists of Brazilian Threatened with Extinction and the preparation of action plans for the endangered species. The country produced its first list of endangered species in 1968, with four subsequent updates, the most recent published in 2016.

In recent years, the lists of species of Brazilian fauna and flora threatened with extinction have both undergone processes of revision, culminating in the publication of MMA Normative Instructions 3/03, 5/04 and 6/08. In the case of fauna, for the first time groups of fish and invertebrates were included in a list of endangered species. The inclusion of these groups added complexity to the process, particularly from a legal and operational point of view. This is because, unlike terrestrial species, for which Law no. 5.197 of 3 January 1967 applies and which prohibits "the use, harassment, destruction, hunting or seizure" of wild animals, for aquatic species, Decree-Law no. 221 of 28 February 1967 applies, which in its Article 2, states that fishing "can be carried out for commercial, sporting or scientific purposes" and encourages the use of so-called "fishery resources".

For this reason, IN 5/04 contained, in addition to fish and aquatic invertebrates threatened with extinction, a second annex containing a list of those species with a status of being overexploited or threatened with overexploitation, since under Law no. 10.683 of 28 May 2003, it is the responsibility of the MMA to establish the norms, criteria and standards of use for these species, so defined on the basis of the best existing scientific data.

After the publication of the list of fish and aquatic invertebrates threatened with extinction, the MMA received from the Special Secretariat for Aquaculture and Fisheries (SEAP) and IBAMA, a proposal for the revision and treatment of some of the species included in the annexes of the Normative Instruction. The solution to this question was arrived at in a series of meetings, held under the framework of the Permanent Technical Working Group on Endangered Species and Overexploited Species or Species Threatened with Overexploitation of the National Biodiversity Commission (CONABIO), with the participation of specialists on the species groups in question. Under Normative Instruction 52/05, some species about which there were doubts were re-categorised or removed from the lists, following recommendation by CONABIO.

COABIO developed the "Methodological Roadmap for Assessing the Conservation Status of Species of Brazilian Fauna", which served as the basis forw ICMBio Normative Instruction No. 34 of 30 March 2013, which provides guidelines and procedures for the Assessment of the Conservation Status of Species of Brazilian Fauna. he Normative Instruction standardizes the steps and documents needed for assessments, defines the participants in the process and their roles, and establishes the methodology for evaluating the conservation status of species of Brazilian fauna. The methodology adopted is that developed by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), which is used worldwide in assessments of the conservation status of species at a global level and has also been adopted by many countries for national assessments.

Access here the handbook on the Application of IUCN Criteria and Categories for Assessing Brazilian Fauna.

Thus, over the years, the process of developing the list of threatened species has been improved. For the last edition, ICMBio coordinated the assessment of fauna species, for the first time assessing the risk of extinction of all vertebrates found in the country and of a selected group of invertebrates. It represented the greatest effort to assess the risk of extinction of species of the fauna in a country.

A última The latest Official List of Brazilian Fauna Threatened with Extinction 13 was published in 2016, the result of the work of the assessment process carried out ICMBio from 2009 to 2014. The assessment recorded 698 terrestrial species, with a further 195 aquatic species, totalling 1,173 species of fauna threatened with extinction. Recent estimates indicate that this number could double by 2020 if the trend is maintained. The biomes most affected are the Atlantic Forest, with more than 50 percent of the threatened species, and the Cerrado, with a further 26 percent. Following the creation of the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) by Law nº 11.516 of August 2007, conservation of endangered species became the responsibility of this new institute.

The list of species of Brazilian flora threatened with extinction was published in the Brazilian Red Book of Flora in 2013 14. This work provides the methodology used for the assessment of species, the endangered species and distribution maps. All the threatened species were fully included in MMA Executive Order 443 of 17 December 2014. In this way, these threatened species are protected by law.

Check here for information on fauna and flora threatened with extinction.

Action Plans for the Conservation of Endangered Species

Conservation action plans are management tools that establish action strategies for the conservation of threatened species. Joint Executive Order No. 316 of 9 September 200915 established the legal framework for implementation of such strategies, stating that the action plans, together with national lists of threatened species and red books, constitute one of the instruments for implementing the National Biodiversity Policy.

Despite acknowledged progress made over the last few years, there is an enormous need for the development and implementation of new action plans for the conservation of endangered species, that identify effective conservation strategies for these species. To this end, ICMBIO pledged to the Convention on Biological Diversity to meet the target of 100 percent of threatened species with action plans in place (by species, biome, ecosystem, threat, taxon) by 2014.

According to the Department for Conservation and Management of Species – DESP/SBio/MMA 16, in 2016, of the 3286 Brazilian species threatened with extinction, 2533, or 77 percent, had protection measures in place.

In 2018, the MMA instituted the National Strategy for the Conservation of Species Threatened with Extinction through MMA Executive Order No. 444 of 26 November, whose purpose is to guide conservation efforts such that by 2022 all endangered species are under some measure of conservation. The first step of the National Strategy was taken through meetings and workshops with the participation of several specialists, aiming at an analysis of effectiveness and gaps in conservation measures for endangered species. As a result, each endangered species was classified according to a “Protection Level”, which identified species without conservation measures, those which have but need further measures, and those species for which the measures are adequate. Such a classification differs from the categories of threat (Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered); these will be used later, indicating the degree of urgency of the action planned for each species.

Access here the Biodiversity Portal, an ICMBio platform that provides data on Brazilian biodiversity, including the lists and records of endangered species.

Selection of Priority Areas

The selection of Priority Areas for the Conservation, Sustainable Use and Sharing of Benefits of Biodiversity is an important public policy instrument for decision-making in the planning and implementation of protected areas, which was established by Decree 5.092 of 21 May 2004. The updating of Priority Areas and Actions is the responsibility of the MMA, based on the availability of new data, information and tools, and in line with the recommendations of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Plan of Action for the Implementation of the National Biodiversity Policy (PAN-Bio) and the National Plan for Protected Areas (PNAP).

Throughout the development of environmental policy, there were multiple interests and motivations involved, including in the implementation of Brazilian conservation areas. The evolution of the criteria for the selection of areas for conservation units in Amazonia, described below, clearly illustrates the variety of interests that propelled this agenda. The first attempt to identify areas for the establishment of conservation areas was carried out within the framework of the Radam Project (1973-1983), responsible for surveying the geological, geomorphological, hydrological, pedological and vegetation cover of the entire Brazilian territory, carried out by the Ministry of Mines and Energy. On completion, it recommended the creation of more than 35 million hectares of full protection conservation areas and a further 71.5 million hectares of sustainable use conservation areas in the Amazon. The criterion used for this identification was based on unique geological and geomorphological phenomena; however, many of the areas identified as suitable for conservation were simply areas with no other possible uses.

The theory of refugia links the Amazon’s greatest biological diversity to Pleistocene refuges that would have been covered by forests during the Quaternary glaciations. As biogeographic analysis suggested different refuges for different groups of organisms, the authors suggest that the priority areas would be those that were refuges for as many groups of organisms as possible 18.

Later, in 1976, a new proposal appeared. Its authors - Wetterberger, Jorge-Pádua, Castro and Vasconcellos - proposed prioritizing areas with high concentration of endemism, identified in accordance with refugia theory.
At the same time, the Special Secretariat for the Environment (SEMA) established ecological stations and, in the early 1980s, several areas in the Amazon, such as Anavilhanas (1981) in the state of Amazonas, Maracá (1981), Caracaraí (1982) and Niquiá (1985) in Roraima, Maracá-Jipioca (1981) in Amapá and Rio Acre (1981) in Acre. These stations were intended "to conserve representative samples of the main ecosystems of Brazil and to provide conditions for comparative studies between these environments and the neighbouring areas with human occupation".
In 1990, a new attempt was made, known as Workshop 90. On this occasion, the selection of priority areas for conservation was carried out based on biogeographic analysis of endemism and species richness, also taking into account the occurrence of rare or threatened species, the presence of special geological phenomena and the degree of ecosystem vulnerability. It was already recognized that the selection of areas was dependant on existing knowledge about the Amazon.
Both this attempt and the method based on the theory of the Pleistocene refuges are based on species distribution and have two serious limitations. The first is that the greatest wealth of some species occurs just outside the areas of high concentration of endemic species, as is the case of butterflies in the Amazon. The second is that, to be applied, it would require vast knowledge of the different groups of organisms and their distribution. This second limitation is really serious when it comes to complex tropical ecosystems. There are studies that show that much of the centres of plant endemism in the Amazon are no more than sampling artefacts - where more species are believed to be is a result of greater research effort - and that certain species considered rare may need to have their status revised when new studies are carried out.
Faced with these limitations, the possibility began to be considered of developing a new approach to the issue based on the distribution of ecosystems and landscapes, rather than of species. To this end, in 1995 Fearnside and Ferraz undertook a gap analysis to select priority areas for conservation, but since they used states as their units of analysis, they were criticized for prioritizing political rather than ecological areas. It was subsequently that a combination of this method with the use of interfluves as the geographic unit of analysis. That is, a gap analysis was proposed to identify the vegetation types - landscape areas – that were conservation priorities in each of the large Amazonian interfluvial regions.
Another criterion proposed as important for the selection and design of new protected areas, especially in the Amazon, is the real possibility for the area to be defended and protected. Many existing areas have limited human and financial resources, and this is aggravated by the design of areas which, rather than hindering illegal activities, often facilitate them, making their protection more difficult and very costly. The idea in this case is that the possibility of defensibility complements biological attributes and considerations in the task of selecting and designing future protected areas.

Evaluation and Identification of Priority Actions for the Conservation, Sustainable Use and Distribution of the Benefits of Biodiversity in the Brazilian Amazon

MMA Executive Order No. 126, of 27 May 2004, was the first official definition of the priority areas, and on 23 January 2007, MMA Executive Order No. 9 brought the first update of the process. In 2018, the second update of the "Priority Areas and Actions for Biodiversity Conservation", was provided by Executive Order No. 463, of 18 December 2018. The process was marked by the launch in 2016 of the Priority Areas for Biodiversity Conservation of the Cerrado, Pantanal and Caatinga, and in 2018, by the publication of "Priority Areas for Biodiversity Conservation in the Amazon, Atlantic Forest, Pampa and Coastal and Marine Zone.

In all the biomes, the methodology approved in the CONABIO Deliberation nº 39 of 12/14/2005 was used, based on the integration of computational modelling, with validation by specialists from different sectors and regions of the biomes of the information generated.
Four workshops were held for each of the processes developed by bioma: Conservation Aims and Targets; Costs; Opportunities; and Selection of Areas and Recommendations for Action. The results obtained for each biome were then systematized into a single map, together with a database containing the specific maps and descriptive record of the areas with their recommended actions, as well as information on their biological importance and priority for action.

Evaluation of Recent Governments



Cultural landscapes

Authorship: Juliana Santilli (founder-member of ISA and Prosecutor, Federal District Public Prosecution Service) (2010)

The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (the World Heritage Convention), adopted in 1972 allows for the designation of properties as world heritage under two different categories: natural heritage or cultural heritage. The text of the Convention initially revealed an antagonism between these natural and cultural categories, reflecting the twin origins of the concern with world heritage deriving from two distinct movements – one concerned with cultural sites and the other with nature conservation, as noted by Rafael Ribeiro 20.

Later, in acknowledgement of the existence of sites classifiable under both categories, the mixed property classification was created for those sites whose listing was justified on both cultural and natural criteria, but without any consideration of the links between both. It was only in 1992, the same year that the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development took place in Rio de Janeiro, that UNESCO adopted the category of ‘cultural landscape’, acknowledging the inter-relationship of humans and the environment, of the natural and the cultural. In order to be included in the World Heritage List, cultural landscapes should be chosen for their universal value, for their representativity in terms of a clearly defined geo-cultural region and for their ability to reveal distinct cultural features of this region. The concept of cultural landscape also covers ideas of belonging, significance, value and special characteristics of the site 20.

Cultural landscapes are classified under three categories for the purposes of listing as world heritage: a) clearly defined landscapes, those that are designed and created intentionally, such as parks and gardens built for aesthetic motives; b) organically evolved landscapes, also referred to as “essentially evolutionary”, and sub-divided into relict or fossil landscapes, in which an evolutionary process came to an end at some time in the past, and continuing landscapes, in which the evolutionary process is still in progress; and c) associative cultural landscapes, whose value is justifiable by virtue of the powerful religious, artistic or cultural associations of the natural element rather than material cultural evidence, which may be insignificant or even absent.

At the present time there is no Brazilian site inscribed as a cultural landscape in the UNESCO World Heritage List, nor are there any sites inscribed in Brazil’s national list of archaeological, ethnographic and landscape sites (the Livro do Tombo Arqueológico, Etnográfico e Paisagístico2) for their value as a “cultural landscape” as defined by UNESCO, i.e. for the inter-relationship of culture and nature and the site’s tangible and intangible components.

The possibility of inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List of the “Caminho do Ouro de Paraty” (the Paraty Gold Trail) and the city of Rio de Janeiro is under discussion. The full list of listed cultural landscapes on the World Heritage List can be found here. List can be found here.

Among the cultural landscapes inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List are many sites demonstrating rich socio-environmental diversity, such as the Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila in Mexico (listed 2006); the Costiera Amalfitana in Italy (listed 1997); the Quebrada de Hunahuaca in the Rio Grande valley in Argentina (listed 2003): the Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests in Kenya (listed 2008); the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (listed 1995); the Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the South-east of Cuba (listed  2000); the Agricultural Landscape of Southern Öland in the Baltic Sea, Sweden (listed 2000 and dominated by a limestone plateau where humans adapted, five thousand years ago, to a hostile environment); the Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape in Hungary (listed 2002); the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture in the Azores (listed 2004) and the Alto Douro Wine Region in Portugal (listed 2001).  All have been recognized as landscapes of “outstanding universal value” under the terms of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. The European Landscape Convention adopted in 2000 differs from the UNESCO convention not only because of its regional rather than global scope, but also by embracing all landscapes including those not possessing exceptional value. It establishes standards for the protection and management of all types of landscape and encourages citizen participation in policy-making concerning the landscapes in which they live.

Brazil has created, in addition to cultural landscapes of “outstanding universal value” as recognized by UNESCO through its international convention, a national instrument to recognize “Brazilian cultural landscapes” called a chancela (order), instituted by Executive Order nº 127, of 30/04/2009, issued by the president of the National Historical and Cultural Heritage Institute (IPHAN – Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional). This instrument was established on the basis of article 216, paragraph 1 of the Brazilian Federal Constitution, which requires public authority, in collaboration with the community, to promote and protect Brazil’s cultural heritage through inventories, registers, oversight, preservation orders, compulsory acquisition and “other forms of protection and preservation”. The executive order defines a “Brazilian cultural landscape” as a specific portion of the national territory representative of the process of interaction of human society with the natural world, where human lives and knowledge have left their mark or attributed values”. A “Brazilian cultural landscape” is declared by means of a chancela issued by IPHAN and any individual or body is entitled to request the setting up of the administrative procedure leading to the issue of such an order.

The order implies the establishment of a pact involving public authority, civil society and the private sector with the aim of co-management of areas of the national territory recognized as cultural landscapes. It takes into account the dynamic nature of culture and of human impacts on territorial areas and provides for revalidation at intervals of no longer than ten years. The purpose of the order is to contribute to the preservation of cultural heritage in accordance with the Constitution, complementing and integrating existing instruments for its promotion and protection. The landscape architect and IPHAN staff member Carlos Fernando de Moura Delphim defines a cultural landscape as a “complex, dynamic and unstable system where the different factors evolve in a conjoined and interactive way” and argues the need for legislation to protect cultural landscapes against possible damage or prejudicial activities 21.

According to the Bagé Statement 22,  cultural landscape is the “natural environment on which humans have left the marks of their actions and forms of expression, resulting in a sum of all the resulting evidence of the interaction of humans with nature and, reciprocally, of nature with humans”. Among sites being considered for listing as Brazilian cultural landscapes are the Ribeira valley in São Paulo, the Serra do Bodoquena in Mato Grosso do Sul, the Itajaí valley in Santa Catarina and Canudos in Bahia.

The Ribeira valley is a geographical region made up of 25 municipalities within the catchment of the Ribeira de Iguape valley. The region contains the highest levels of biodiversity in the state of São Paulo and forms part of the Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves, listed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1999. It is a site of great cultural diversity as represented by quilombolas, caiçaras (traditional coastal communities), indigenous communities, settlements of immigrant origin, family farmers and traditional fishing communities. The region also contains numerous archaeological sites and urban settlements with colonial-era buildings.

In the Itajaí valley IPHAN highlights the fact that small-scale mixed-farming properties based on family labour have been the key to the development and sustainability of the region from the colonial beginnings to the present day.  Even with the economic development of the immigrant settlements and the prosperity of some of their members, their social basis has remained rooted in small agricultural properties and the homes of small farmers represent the epitome of immigrant architecture in southern Brazil. Attached to the houses are gardens, vegetable patches (where tomatoes, cabbages, kale, lettuce, squashes, cucumbers, peanuts, peppers and herbs predominate, mainly destined for the family kitchen) and there are orchards to the rear of the house (with avocado, persimmon, star fruit, jabuticaba, Brazil cherry, orange, lemon, guava and other fruits). Bananas and sugarcane are always found and heart-of-palm is kept for special occasions. Small lakes with ducks and teals are generally found nearby, and bamboo plants with their multiple uses are regarded as indispensible. In areas of Polish and Italian immigration vine trellises are almost obligatory, allowing the traditional household production of wine 23.

Under consideration for listing as Brazilian cultural landscapes are the localities of Testo Alto (in the municipality of Pomerode) and Rio da Luz (in the municipality of Jaraguá do Sul) in the Itajaí valley in Santa Catarina. These examples show the potential use of the “cultural landscape” category for the protection of biodiversity.

Intangible cultural assets

The Brazilian Constitution represents a great step forward in the protection of cultural assets and is considered to embody a new, modern conception of cultural heritage that is more comprehensive and democratic. It is an advance on the restrictive concept of “national historical and artistic heritage” defined under Decree-Law nº 25/37 (known as the “Law on Listing”) as “the set of the tangible and intangible assets present in the country whose conservation is in the public interest whether for their links to memorable facts in the history of Brazil or for their outstanding archaeological, ethnographic, bibliographic or artistic value”.

The Constitution expands the concept of cultural heritage (article 216) by recognizing is twin forms – tangible and intangible – and considering as cultural assets forms of expression, modes of creating, doing and living, and the scientific, artistic and technological creations of Brazil’s varied social groups. The idea adopted by the Constitution is that it is not possible to understand cultural assets without considering the values they embody and which they represent (their intangible dimension) and, by the same token, it is not possible to understand the dynamics of intangible cultural heritage without an understanding of the material culture that supports this 24.

This constitutional definition covers cultural manifestations of a process-based and dynamic nature and values “living” culture rooted in the everyday life of society 25.

Intangible assets include the multiple ways of knowing, doing and creating, such as songs, tales, legends, dances, cooking recipes, artisanal techniques and environmental management, amongst others. It includes the knowledge, innovations and practices held by local and traditional agriculturalists ranging from ways of planting (burning and leaving fallow) to biological control of pests and disease and the improvement of local varieties.

Such traditional and local knowledge associated with agro-biodiversity forms part of Brazilian cultural heritage and should be the object of policies and actions to protect and support this.  The twin aspects of this cultural heritage – tangible (agro-ecosystems and cultivated plants) and intangible (agricultural knowledge) – are protected by the Constitution.

In addition to listing (designed for the protection of buildings, works of art and other assets of a tangible nature), the Constitution also provides for registers and inventories, instruments aimed at the protection of cultural assets of an intangible nature. It further establishes that “other forms of protection and preservation” should be enacted by public authority, with the support of the community, to promote and protect Brazil’s cultural heritage (article 216, paragraph 1 of the Federal Constitution).

Decree 3.551/2000 established the registry of cultural assets of an intangible nature, creating the registers of knowledge, celebrations, forms of expression and places. Inscribed in the Register of Knowledge are the knowledge and modes of practice rooted in the everyday life of communities: for example, the art of the clay potters of Goiabeiras in Espírito Santo, and that of the typical acarajé cake vendors of Bahia.

Inscribed in the Register of Celebrations are the rituals and ceremonies that make up the collective experience of work, religious practice, entertainment and other aspects of social life: for example, the Círio de Nazaré celebrations in Belém, Pará. Inscribed in the Register of Forms of Expression are literary, musical, artistic, scenic and ludic expressions: for example, the Kusiwa graphic design of the Wajãpi indians of Amapá. Inscribed in the Register of Places are markets, fairs, sanctuaries, squares and other spaces where collective cultural practices are concentrated and reproduced: for example, the Iauaretê waterfall, a site sacred to the indigenous peoples of the upper Rio Negro, located in the district of Iauaretê in the municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, in the state of Amazonas 26.

For a full list of the assets inscribed in the registers of IPHAN (in Portuguese), click here.

In addition to these four registers, Decree 3.551/2000 provides for the creation of other registers by IPHAN. The main purpose of the register is to bring together and systematize a complete set of knowledge and documentation concerning the cultural asset that is to be recognized as part of Brazil’s cultural heritage with a view to promoting its wide dissemination and public recognition 26.

The register has a declaratory function and always needs be able to count on the support of the social groups involved. Those cultural assets protected by the register do not necessarily generate products and services with an economic value, notwithstanding their high cultural, symbolic, political and social value.

In addition to granting the title of “Brazilian cultural heritage”, the register creates the obligation for public authority to undertake protective measures in support of the asset’s continuity and that of the social and material conditions that led to its existence. The register also takes into account the process-based and dynamic nature of intangible cultural assets. IPHAN is required to reassess listed cultural assets at intervals of no more than ten years in order to decide the renewal (or not) of the title of Brazilian cultural heritage. Ana Cláudia Lima e Alves points out that, contrary to the mistaken popular view, tradition should be understood as cultural expressions and practices that are transformed, reiterated and updated over time, retaining their essence and meaning for contemporary society 27.

The National Inventory of Cultural References (Inventário Nacional de Referências Culturais – INRC) is the technical instrument for the production of knowledge on process-based and dynamic cultural assets. The inventory aims to generate knowledge about those aspects of social life to which meanings and values are attributed and which constitute the frameworks and references for the identity of a particular social group 28. It includes, in addition to the categories covered by the register, buildings associated with specific uses, historical significance or urban townscapes independently of their architectural or artistic qualities.

Decree 3.551/2000 also establishes the National Programme of Intangible Heritage (Programa Nacional do Patrimônio Imaterial), whose instruments, in addition to the register, are the National Inventory of Cultural References and safeguard plans. The latter define the most appropriate ways of protecting the asset, which can range from financial support to the knowledge holders to community organization or facilitated access to raw materials.



Saiba Mais

  • Convention on Biological Diversity. Disponível aqui. Acesso em janeiro/2019.
  • Ministério do Meio Ambiente. Convenção Sobre Diversidade Biológica - CDB. Disponível aqui. Acesso em janeiro/2019.
  • Decreto Nº 2.519 de 16 de março de 1998, Promulga a Convenção sobre Diversidade Biológica, assinada no Rio de Janeiro, em 05 de junho de 1992 -
  • MINISTÉRIO DAS RELAÇÕES EXTERIORES. Objetivos de Desenvolvimento Sustentável (ODS). Disponível aqui. Acesso em janeiro/2019.
    ONU Brasil. Transformando Nosso Mundo: A Agenda 2030 para o Desenvolvimento Sustentável. Disponível aqui. Acesso em janeiro/2019.
  • DIAS, B.F.S. 1994. O papel das unidades de conservação face à Convenção sobre Diversidade Biológica e à Constituição Federal de 1988: uma análise conceitual hierarquizada. Mimeo.
  • BARRETO FILHO, H.T. 1999. Notas para o histórico de um artefato sócio-cultural: o Parque Nacional do Jaú. Terras das Águas, 1 (1): 53 – 76.
  • Apontamentos sobre a Biologia da Conservacao, por Maria Cecília Wey de Brito. In: Fany Ricardo (org). Terras Indígenas e Unidades de Conservação: O Desafio das Sobreposições. São Paulo. Instituto Socioambiental. p. 687.
  • Ministério do Meio Ambiente, 2007. Portaria Nº 9 de 23/01/2007. Reconhece e prioriza as áreas prioritárias para a conservação, utilização sustentável e repartição de benefícios da biodiversidade.
  • Mapas de Áreas Prioritárias do Brasil por Bioma podem ser baixados em diversos formatos aqui.                 
  • FOWLER, P. J. "World Heritage Cultural Landscapes: 1992-2002." Paris: Unesco, 2003. (World Heritage Papers, n. 6)
  • Para saber mais sobre as ações de identificação de bens culturais no vale do Ribeira no Estado de São Paulo, com enfoque nas paisagens culturais veja “Paisagem cultural: Inventário de Conhecimento do Patrimônio Cultural no vale do Ribeira”, da Superintendência Regional do Iphan, em São Paulo, coordenado pela arquiteta Flávia Brito do Nascimento.
  • SCIFONI, S.. A construção do patrimônio natural. São Paulo: FFLCH-USP/Labur Edições, 2008. Disponível clicando aqui. Acessado em 2/2/2009.
  • AB’SABER, A.. Os domínios da natureza no Brasil. Potencialidades paisagísticas. São Paulo: Ateliê Editorial, 2003.
  • Conheça a Paisagem Cultural Brasileira em Santa Catarina, clicando aqui.
  • MARÉS DE SOUZA FILHO, C. F. Bens culturais e sua proteção jurídica. 3ª ed. Curitiba: Juruá, 2005.
  • TAMASO, I. A expansão do patrimônio: novos olhares sobre velhos objetos, outros desafios. Brasília: UnB, 2006. (Antropologia, 390).
  • Veloso, M. “O fetiche do patrimônio”. Habitus (Revista do Instituto Goiano de Pré-História e Antropologia da Universidade Católica de Goiás), Goiânia: Editora da UCG, v. 4, n. 1, jan.-jun. 2006.
  • LONDRES FONSECA, M. C. . O patrimônio em processo: trajetória da política federal de preservação no Brasil. 2ª ed. Rio de Janeiro: UFRJ; Iphan, 2005;
  • LONDRES FONSECA, M. C. “Para além da pedra e cal: por uma concepção ampla de patrimônio cultural.” In: ABREU, Regina; CHAGAS, Mário (org.). Memória e patrimônio: ensaios contemporâneos. Rio de Janeiro: DP & A, 2003. p. 56-75.
  • CARDOSO, F. N. G.. “Diversidade cultural e identidade nacional: aspectos da política federal de registro de bens culturais de natureza imaterial.” In: Patrimônio: práticas e reflexões. Rio de Janeiro: Iphan/Copedoc, 2007. p. 203-232;.
  • SANT’ANNA, M. “A face imaterial do patrimônio cultural: os novos instrumentos de reconhecimento e valorização.” In: Abreu, Regina & Chagas, Mário (Org.). Memória e patrimônio: ensaios contemporâneos. Rio de Janeiro: DP & A, 2003. p. 46-55


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  2. BARRETO, Luciano V.; Barros, Flávia M.; Bonomo, Paulo; Rocha, Felizardo Adenilson; Amorim, Jhones da S. Eutrofização em Rios Brasileiros. Enciclopédia Biosfera, Goiânia, v.9, n. 16, p. 2165-2179, 2013.
  3. Política Nacional do Meio Ambiente. Disponível em:
  4. Brasil, 2002. Decreto 4.339 de 22 de agosto de 2002. Institui princípios e diretrizes para a implementação da Política Nacional da Biodiversidade. Disponível clicando aqui.
  12. INAU (Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia em Áreas Úmidas. 2013. Definição e Classificação das Áreas Úmidas (AUs) Brasileiras: Base Científica para uma Nova Política de Proteção e Manejo Sustentável. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: julho de 2017.
  15. Portaria conjunta n° 316 de 9 de setembro de 2009
  17. CARVALHO, J.C.M. 1984. "The conservation of nature in the Brazilian Amazonia". In: H. Sioli (ed.). The Amazon: limnology and landscape ecology of a mighty tropical river and its basin. pp. 707-736. Dr. W. Junk Publishers, Dordrecht, Holanda.
  18. SILVA, J.M.C. 1997. Um método para o estabelecimento de áreas prioritárias para a conservação na Amazônia Legal. WWF-Brasil, Brasília.
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  21. DELPHIM, C. F. M.. “Paisagem”. Rio de Janeiro: Iphan, 6/11/2007.
  22. Carta de Bagé ou Carta da Paisagem Cultural foi aprovada durante a Jornada “Paisagens culturais: novos conceitos, novos desafios”, realizada em Bagé, Rio Grande do Sul, no dia 17/8/2007. A Carta da Serra da Bodoquena ou Carta das Paisagens Culturais e Geoparques foi aprovada durante o seminário “Serra da Bodoquena/MS – Paisagem Cultural e Geoparque”, realizado em Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul, de 19 a 21 de setembro de 2007. Agradeço a Maria Regina Weissheimer, arquiteta e urbanista do Iphan por todas as informações sobre as ações institucionais relativas às paisagens culturais.
  23. Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional. 11ª Superintendência Regional, Santa Catarina. Roteiros nacionais de imigração. Santa Catarina. Florianópolis: Iphan. p. 212-221. Supervisão e Coordenação: Dalmo Vieira Filho e Maria Regina Weissheimer. Esse lindo trabalho apresenta e valoriza a contribuição dos imigrantes oriundos de países como Alemanha, Itália, Polônia e Ucrânia para o patrimônio cultural brasileiro. Ele foi apresentado ao Conselho Consultivo do Iphan em dezembro de 2007.
  24. Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional; Fundação Nacional de Arte. O registro do patrimônio imaterial: Dossiê final das atividades da Comissão e do Grupo de Trabalho Patrimônio Imaterial. Brasília, jul. 2003. p. 125.
  25. LONDRES FONSECA, M. C. “Da modernização à participação: a política federal de preservação dos anos 70 e 80”. Revista do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional, Brasília: Iphan, nº 24, p. 153, 1996.
  26. OLIVEIRA, A. G. de, MATHIAS, F. & ANDRELLO, G.. Compartilhar ou monopolizar? Propriedade intelectual, patrimônio imaterial e os povos indígenas do rio Uaupés. Brasília: Iphan, 2008. p. 13-7. (Dossiê Iphan, 7: Cachoeira de Iauaretê. Lugar sagrado dos povos indígenas dos rios Uaupés e Papuri - AM).
  27. ALVES, A. C. L. e. A instrução dos processos de registro de bens culturais imateriais. Belo Horizonte: EAD/DUO Informação e Cultura, 2008. Curso Patrimônio Imaterial: Política e Instrumentos de Identificação, Documentação e Salvaguarda, módulo 3, aula 6, realização da Unesco.
  28. OLIVEIRA, A. G de. “A diversidade cultural como categoria organizadora de políticas públicas.” In: Teixeira, João Gabriel L. C. (org.). Patrimônio imaterial, performance e (re)tradicionalização. Brasília: ICS-UnB, 2004. p. 37-42