A mismatch between the opinion and behavior of the National Congress in the environmental and climate agendas is demonstrated by this unique survey by the Political Action Network for Sustainability (RAPS), the Institute for Climate and Society (iCS) and the Center for Politics and Economics of the Public Sector of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (CepESP/FGV). Involving senators and federal deputies, the study shows that the political alignment of support or opposition to the Federal Government is a key element in the positioning regarding issues related to the agenda.
“These results show us that, despite the fact that we are living in a time of climate emergency, an important part of the National Congress is in what we could call climate lethargy and oblivious to the gravity of the situation,” says Mônica Sodré, executive director of RAPS.
Answered by 17 senators, 114 federal deputies and 28 direct advisors, the survey shows that 94% of the deputies and senators said they are very interested or interested in environmental issues. However, although most consider investment in renewable energies (51%) as a priority element in the climate agenda, only 25% choose to combat fires. More than this, 71% of the respondents attributed the responsibility for combating deforestation and fires to the Federal Government, without correlating their own responsibility. This happens, as Sodré explains, at a time when the parliament is moving in the opposite direction, approving bills that may not only lead to an increase in deforestation but also in land-grabbing, together with the flexibility of licensing for many other activities. “Although inspection is the duty of the Executive, the federal parliament has shown itself to be conniving with an agenda from the past. We need the parliament to make its contribution to place us on the economic agenda of the 21st century, that of decarbonization,” she says.
Here are some of the main highlights of the survey:
• 89% of the congress members agree with the need for greater monitoring of deforestation; 29% listed this as the main priority of the government in the context of climate emergency;
• The majority state they do not envisage any dilemma between environmental conservation and economic growth. They say they are concerned with environmental issues but, at the same time, emphasize that they do not see any interest by the Legislative Branches in advancing the theme;
• 87% believe that Brazil should invest more resources to reduce deforestation, and 69% agree with a more robust budget for Ibama, which has suffered from considerable interventions in recent years;
• The survey also presents a new Environmentalist Index for Members of Congress (IAC), which points out major differences in the concern between the situation and the opposition. On a scale from 0 to 1, with 1 being very concerned about the issue, members of congress from the support base of the government scored less (0.46) than the average of the opposition (0.85);
• In view of this scenario, it can be said that the success of legislative measures in favor of environmental protection depends on their origin: the chances of approval are higher if they are proposed by the Executive.
The study was presented during a RAPS event in Climate Week – a preparatory event for the COP 26 that will take place in November, in Glasgow, Scotland.
Environmentalist Index for Members of Congress (IAC)
To understand the differences between the practice and the discourse, and to measure the behavior and perception of the parliamentarians, three first-time indices were created, ranging from 0 to 1: the Environmentalist Index for Members of Congress (IAC), which provides an average with respect to this agenda; the Index for the Sense of Climate Urgency; and the Index for the Defense of Investments for Environmental Inspection.
The numbers show that the average for members of congress concerned with the environment was 0.64, with a large variation between those who support the government (only 0.46) and the average of the opposition (0.85). Also, according to the IAC, self-positioned politicians, such as those on the left, are more concerned (0.88) than those in the center (0.58) or on the right (only 0.3).
The specific index regarding the sense of climate emergency of the parliamentarians calculates the average opinion of the deputies and senators at 0.59. This score is much higher among opposition members (0.85) than among government supporters (0.49). There was also a difference in the division of the result by ideology: 0.35 for right-wing parliamentarians, 0.59 for those from the center, and 0.85 for those on the left.
Regarding the investment in environmental monitoring, the average position of parliamentarians is 0.77. However, the difference between the government bloc (0.72) and the opposition bloc (0.91) is smaller. This indicates that the parliamentarians from the government bloc are in favor of monitoring more than they agree with the existence of a climate emergency. There was also a difference in this index between ideological positions: on the right with 0.63, the center with 0.79 and on the left with 0.9.
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