In Brazil, the federal environmental agency announced it is cutting back on its enforcement duties, which include protecting the Amazon from accelerating deforestation that could lead to the release of massive amounts of greenhouse gases that are stored in one of the world’s most important carbon sinks.
Governments have a human rights obligation to protect people from environmental harm — and this includes a duty to address climate change.
They might conceivably have valid reasons to temporarily relax the enforcement of some environmental rules as they scramble to contain the pandemic and salvage their economies. But these measures could do permanent damage if used to advance the broader anti-environmental agendas of leaders like President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who oppose global efforts to address climate change.
The real impact of the coronavirus crisis on climate could depend ultimately on choices made regarding how governments want their economies to look when they recover—and, in particular, how much they will continue to rely on fossil fuels. Meeting the Paris Agreement’s central goal of limiting global warming will require reducing this reliance.
And here the crisis might offer some grounds for hope.