Dec. 7 - Environmentalists warn new law could spur illegal rainforest logging and damage Brazilian emission targets. Paul Chapman reports.
Brazil's Senate backed new legislation to ease protection for the Amazon rain forest - but not without more of the protests it's ignited. The new law will reduce the amount of rain forest farmers are required to preserve. It will also give partial amnesties for those fined in the past for deforestation. Senators who opposed the bill said they were unhappy with the outcome of the vote but deferred to the political process. SOUNDBITE: Katia Abreu, Senator, saying (Portuguese): "I'm sure that many Congress people are not satisfied with the result. Nobody is 100 per cent satisfied. Some of us in the Senate are not. Some Senators would have liked to do a little more but it wasn't possible. This isn't a place of absolute certainty, or absolute truth. This is a political place where the majority of votes wins." Greenpeace environmental campaigners took the fight to international climate talks in the South African city of Durban. They're appealing to the Brazilian president, who has the final say on the bill's approval. SOUNDBITE: Thais Megid, Greenpeace activist, saying (English): "If the new forest code will be approved, deforestation in Brazil will increase and this will also not be good for the international commitment Brazil made in Copenhagen in 2009." Destruction of Brazil's part of the Amazon dropped to its lowest level in 23 years through the first half of 2011. The government says that's down to its tougher stance against illegal logging. Monitoring and enforcement has been stepped up in recent years. But the improvement has been partly driven by slower world economic growth that's reduced demand and prices for Brazilian farm produce. Brazil's farmers say they need more flexibility on environmental regulations to compete against nations like the U.S. and Argentina. Brazil is one of the biggest exporters of products including beef and soy. Greenpeace says the new law could cost an area of rainforest the size of Sweden. Forest destruction, largely the result of farming interests, is a major source of carbon emissions. Paul Chapman, Reuters