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Will Brazil Be The Next Country To Make Bitcoin Legal Tender? (#GotBitcoin)

Bitcoin Set To Become Legal Payment In Brazil. Will Brazil Be The Next Country To Make Bitcoin Legal Tender? (#GotBitcoin)

Brazil’s Federal Deputy Aureo Ribeiro has revealed that Brazilians could soon be able to buy houses, cars and even McDonald’s with Bitcoin.

Will Brazil Be The Next Country To Make Bitcoin Legal Tender? (#GotBitcoin)

The South American nation is preparing to vote on a cryptocurrency regulation bill which is expected to be presented to the Plenary of the Chamber of Deputies within the next few days.

“We want to separate the wheat from the chaff, create regulations so that you can trade, know where you’re buying and know who you’re dealing with,” Ribeiro said.

“With this asset you will be able to buy a house, a car, go to McDonald’s to buy a hamburger – it will be a currency in the country as it happened in other countries.”

Bill 2.303/15, which calls for the regulation of virtual currencies, was approved for presentation last week.

If it gets the thumbs up from the Chamber of Deputies this week, then Brazil looks set to follow El Salvador’s example and make Bitcoin legal tender.

Brazil ‘Crypto Law’ As Example To Other Countries

Brazil’s deputy said he was happy with the approval of ‘Bitcoin Law’, and stressed that Brazilians were already facing Bitcoin in many places, with the possibility of buying, selling and investing in this sector.

However, Aureo noted that the market was still not regulated and, as such, does not offer legal recognition.

He said that he was sure though, that with the approval of the bill, several more countries could copy his country’s regulatory model.

“We debated a few years for a text that recognizes this asset to finally arrive,” he explained.

“This will allow transactions of this asset in our country, which will be regulated by a government agency”.

“We already made an agreement with both, Central Bank and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Brazil (CVM), over opportunities of this asset and its recognition within, for example, real estate value or currency of daily use.”

Aureo Ribeiro said he was convinced that the proposed bill’s text has the quality to improve the reality of Bitcoin in Brazil.

He was keen to stress that the bill had widespread government support and had already been aligned with the president of the Chamber of Deputies – Arthur Lira – meaning there are few further barriers to its approval.

Research by Sherlock Communications using the research platform Toluna showed that 48% of Brazilians want Bitcoin adoption, with 31% agreeing and 17% strongly agreeing.

The debate for a digital asset adoption in Brazil started a few years back. Today, the Brazilian government is on the verge of finalizing plans with the aid of the Central Bank.

Brazil’s Federal Deputy, Aurero Ribeiro has noted in an interview that Brazilians will soon be able to buy houses, cars, and even McDonald’s with Bitcoin after the approval of its law. According to him, this will soon happen.

In detail, the commission met and voted for the approval of the opinion recently. Thereafter, the bill will now move to the next stage, which is the plenary of the Chamber of Deputies. To add on, the Brazilian deputy stressed that he is happy with the approval of the Bitcoin Law. To him, this will help to stop cryptocurrency pyramids that are imminent.

Aureo again insisted that the Brazilian market is sustainable. He declared that the move is an innovative and sustainable sector that is already working all over the world. He believes that crypto is here to stay.

We want to separate the wheat from the chaff, create regulations so that you can trade, know where you are buying, know who you are dealing with, and have this asset to buy a house, a car……It will be a currency in the country as it happens in other countries

Expanding further on his point, the congressman stated that Bitcoin valuation surpasses any return on assets listed on the stock exchange. He went on by comparing BTC investment in Dollars and gold.

Above all, bitcoin is most likely to be adopted as a Legal Tender in Brazil before 2021 ends. This shows Brazil’s strategy towards becoming a reference for new foreign investments.

Brazil Aims To Tighten Penalties For Crypto-Related Financial Crimes

The penalties are part of a new piece of legislation that also regulates crypto trading and payments.

Brazilian lawmakers are working to provide stricter regulations for cryptocurrency-related crimes, approving a set of new penalties for laundering money with crypto.

Brazil’s Special Committee of the Chamber of Deputies has approved a bill that significantly tightens penalties for financial crimes that employ cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC), according to an official announcement on Wednesday.

The latest regulatory amendments are part of bill 2303/15, increasing the size of the fines from one-third of the amount of laundered money to two-thirds. The bill also proposes to raise minimum prison terms from three to four years, and increase maximum prison time from 10 years to 16 years and eight months, in addition to a fine.

According to the announcement, the bill is subject to further discussions by the Chamber’s Plenary.

Federal Deputy Aureo Ribeiro stressed that the new bill will help the state to protect Brazilians from crypto scam schemes, noting that more than 300,000 people were affected by “financial pyramid schemes with cryptocurrency” in Rio de Janeiro.

“With the lack of regulation, people have nowhere to turn. The market will advance and adjust in Brazil. There will no longer be profiteers using technology to deceive millions of Brazilians,” Ribeiro stated.

Ribeiro was optimistic about other aspects of the bill, which regulates broader cryptocurrency operations such as trading, custody, fiat exchanges and payments. According to a report by Cointelegraph Brasil, Ribeiro said that Bitcoin will become accepted as payment in Brazil once the bill is passed into law.

Brazil has seen some signs of growing cryptocurrency development and adoption recently. In August, Roberto Campos Neto, head of Brazil’s central bank, called on the state to embrace the crypto market by reshaping local regulations. In June, the Brazil Stock Exchange launched trading of another Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF), following previous listings of several other crypto ETFs earlier this year.

Updated: 8-9-2021

Brazilian Court Sell $1.1 Million In Bitcoin Seized By Federal Police

A Brazilian federal court ordered the sale of a bitcoin stash worth $1.1 million. The sale was conducted by the largest regulated exchange in the country, Mercado Bitcoin.

The Federal Police seized the bitcoin sold from Tradergroup, a company that allegedly was operating as a Ponzi scheme, under the facade of being a cryptocurrency investment company. This is the first time a Brazilian court order initiated a bitcoin sale from seized assets in the country.

Brazilian Court Ordered To Sell Tradergroup’s Seized Bitcoins

A federal court in Espirito Santo ordered the sale of $1.1 million worth of bitcoins that were seized by Federal police back in 2019 from Tradergroup, an alleged Ponzi scheme that was operating under the cover of a cryptocurrency investment company.

The company was intervened as part of the “Madoff” operation, where 43 Federal Police officers executed five searches and seizure warrants in Espírito Santo, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Acre.

The proceeds of this sale will be destined to pay for some of the obligations that Tradergroup still has with its former customers.

Last month, the court decided the sale to be conducted in Mercado Bitcoin, one of the biggest crypto exchanges in the country.

The exchange sold nine lots of 3 bitcoin, and the last lot for the remaining value, at no less than 2% of the market price. Then, the fiat funds received for the sale were transferred to a court account.

Federal Public Prosecutor Alexandre Senra. Who Ordered The Sale Of The Bitcoins, Stated:

There are many victims of Tradergroup with lawsuits, mainly in the State Court, asking for the money invested back, and now a portion of this money will be able to be returned, not all because the credit sold in [bitcoin] was not enough to reimburse the losses.

Historic Sale

This is the first time that a federal court of Brazil orders the sale of a cryptocurrency asset via a commercial exchange. However, this does not mean that Brazilian authorities have lax regulations regarding cryptocurrency-related crimes. In fact, the country has been one of the most active in the cryptocurrency sphere in South America.

Just last month, authorities arrested Claudio Oliveira, also known as the Brazilian “King of Bitcoin” due to his alleged involvement in a $300 million fraud scheme. The police also seized more than $33 million in a probe that linked unnamed cryptocurrency schemes to money laundering shell companies in the country.

Updated: 8-21-2021

Fires Destroy Amazon Rainforest, Blanketing Brazilian Cities in Smog

Criticism of President Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental policies widens; darkness descends two hours early in São Paulo.

Fires Destroy Amazon Rain Forest, Blanketing Brazilian Cities In Smog (#GotBitcoin?)

Leonardo DiCaprio’s new environmental foundation, Earth Alliance, has made an initial pledge of $5 million to help fight the raging fires devastating the Amazon rainforest. The Oscar-winner’s organization, which made the announcement over the weekend, addresses urgent threats against the planet.


Rainforest Charity Launches Crypto Appeal To Help Protect Amazon

A veteran non-profit is embracing the crypto community to fight forest fires in the Amazon.

The Rain Forest Foundation, founded in 1987, announced today a campaign to fight the Brazilian forest fires with the help of the crypto community. Although the foundation has accepted crypto for years—and even developed their own, BitSeed, in 2014–the Brazilian fires has given the Foundation a new impetus for embracing the crypto community.

Deforestation is up 278% from a year ago last July with the number of forest fires doubling between January and August 2018 to 2019, according to the Rain Forest Foundation. The organization is seeking up to $100 million to combat the fires, but did not set a specific funding goal for the crypto appeal.

Speaking with CoinDesk, executive director Suzanne Pelletier said old school philanthropy isn’t making the cut, necessitating new donation and community activity methods. The crypto community’s ability to think outside the box spurred the new campaign.

“[Crypto is] filled with people that are thinking differently and trying to change the rules of the game. It’s so slow and so bureaucratic to raise support from foundations. It’s going to be too late. We don’t have enough time,” Pelletier said.

As of now, the foundation accepts donations in bitcoinethereum, litecoin, and bitcoin cash. It’s also working with bitcoin donation firm The Giving Block on the project. The foundation is looking for crypto communities to sponsor projects and raise awareness, in addition to donating crypto.

Working with the crypto community isn’t all about the funds but the tech, Pelletier said. Smart contract systems, currently being developed with the Regen Network, are one such way the foundation is tracking the foundation’s physical work in the jungle. Pelletier said peer-to-peer payments are another innovation the foundation is looking into to bypass traditional banking hurdles.

Vast fires, many of them set by loggers, are ravaging the Amazon at a rate not seen in years, sending plumes of smoke that darken skies over Brazilian cities at a time when there is international pushback against President Jair Bolsonaro ’s environmental policies.

Smoke from the Amazon, as well as blazes across Brazil’s western savanna, has spread over swaths of the country, with darkness descending on São Paulo by mid-afternoon Monday, two hours earlier than normal. Residents posted photos on social media of blackened rainwater collecting in their backyards. Researchers said the forest fires, some more than 2,000 miles away, were partly to blame.

Thick smog continued to hang over Amazonian cities Wednesday, with local hospitals reporting an increase in respiratory problems.

“It suddenly got dark, I had no idea what was happening,” said Jailma Maria da Silva, a 49-year-old manicurist in São Paulo, about the early nightfall, which was also prompted by the sudden arrival of a cold weather front. “It’s getting serious. We see what is going on, but it’s so far away. On Monday, we saw it up close.”

Data from Brazil’s space research agency released Wednesday add to growing evidence of surging deforestation in Brazil, an issue that is emerging as an obstacle to the region’s recent landmark trade deal with the European Union.

Mr. Bolsonaro, who has jokingly nicknamed himself “Captain Chainsaw,” favors loosening environmental protections to spur economic activity and has clashed with European governments and environmentalists over their concerns about the destruction.

The number of forest fires in Brazil, mainly across the Amazon, has soared 84% this year compared with the same period last year, the highest since records began in 2013, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, known as Inpe. On Tuesday, Inpe registered a new fire roughly every minute across the country.

Environmental experts blame the rise this year largely on illegal loggers who have been burning newly cleared land for cattle ranching and agricultural use. The clouds of smoke are so large that a NASA satellite captured them from space.

“Mr. Bolsonaro carries the responsibility for this on his shoulders,” said Ane Alencar, director of science at IPAM, a nongovernmental environmental research institute in the Amazon.

Since taking office in January, Mr. Bolsonaro has reduced funding for Brazil’s environmental protection agency, Ibama, and other environmental institutions, as well as made it harder for Ibama to hand out fines. This has given illegal loggers more confidence to operate, she said.

Alberto Setzer, a researcher in forest fires for Inpe, estimated that 99% of the fires were a result of human activity.

Mr. Bolsonaro said Wednesday that foreign-backed nonprofit groups may have started some of the fires as a way to attack him personally, without elaborating. The president has argued that excessive environmental controls introduced under his left-wing predecessors are crippling the nation’s development, saying that Brazil has a sovereign right to make its own decisions about the Amazon.

The presidential palace declined to comment further on Inpe’s forest fire data.

Last month, Inpe released preliminary data based on satellite images showing that 370 square miles of Amazonian forest were lost in June, an 88% annual increase from the same month a year earlier. The agency said April-to-June deforestation was 24.8% higher than the same period last year.

Mr. Bolsonaro called the figures “a lie” but didn’t elaborate. The government removed the chief of Inpe, physicist Ricardo Galvão, from his post earlier this month.

Germany and Norway this month suspended more than $70 million in financial aid to Brazil’s Amazon fund, a government preservation organization for the rain forest that Mr. Bolsonaro has largely dismantled by closing down the steering committee that selects new projects to support.

“I would like to give a message to the beloved Angela Merkel, ” Mr. Bolsonaro told reporters last week. “Take your money and reforest Germany, OK?” Germany’s embassy in Brazil responded with a video featuring the European country’s lush forests, noting they now covered a third of Germany, more than in the past.

Brazil’s president also took to Twitter to accuse Norway of slaughtering whales, posting a picture of a whale hunt that local media identified as actually having taken place in the Danish Faroe Islands.

Mr. Bolsonaro, a right-wing former army captain who enjoys strong support among Brazil’s farmers, accused foreign powers of trying to wrest control of the Amazon from Brazil. About 60% of the Amazon is in Brazil.

He has hit back at the media for criticism of his environmental policies, recently blaming print newspapers for increasing deforestation, and telling a reporter in a news conference that he should defecate less if he wants to reduce pollution.

Brazilian states in the Amazon region say they want to bypass the president and negotiate directly with European nations for funding of projects to help curb deforestation.

The wrangling over the Amazon, which contains about 10% of the world’s plant and animal species, comes at a delicate moment for Brazil, which along with fellow members in the Mercosur customs union will eventually have to ratify the landmark trade deal that was clinched in June with the EU.

European leaders made the pact contingent on implementing the Paris agreement to curb climate change, which includes a commitment by Brazil to halt illegal deforestation in the Amazon.

European leaders initially gave Mr. Bolsonaro’s new government the benefit of the doubt, waiting to see if the president’s radical rhetoric on the environment would translate to higher rates of deforestation, said Oliver Stuenkel, professor of international relations at Brazil’s Getulio Vargas Foundation.

“But now there seems to be a growing consensus among Europe’s green parties and civil society in Germany that Bolsonaro’s environmental policies are for real, and that it’s necessary to put more pressure on the country,” Mr. Stuenkel said.

Updated: 9-7-2021

Visa Reportedly Aims To Integrate Bitcoin Payments In Brazil

Visa Brazil executive outlines plans for implementing crypto assets such as Bitcoin onto the payments platform.

In a recent interview with local Brazilian news outlet Seu Dinheiro, Eduardo Abreu, vice president of new business at payments giant Visa, revealed the company’s intentions to integrate crypto assets onto its platform for both payments and as a store of value, including the leading cryptocurrency, Bitcoin (BTC).

Back in March 2021, Visa’s CEO of Brazil, Fernando Teles, introduced the concept of adopting tokenized payments, as well as an application programming interface, or API, designed to bridge the gap between traditional financial institutions and crypto services.

In the interview, Abreu shared his belief that greater adoption will require the integration of traditional banking activity within the cryptocurrency ecosystem so that customers can transact with fiat and crypto within the same environment.

Visa already offers 180 currencies on its platform and will look to leverage its 170 million global customer base and established fintech relationships with national banks Alterbank, Ripio and Zro in maximizing adoption in the region.

There was no specific announcement as to the date of the launch, but it is widely expected in the coming months.

“The great advantage of adopting Bitcoin is, without a doubt, its ease. Without needing to exchange a fiat currency, there is an optimization of exchanges when using Bitcoin,” said Abreu.

Alongside This Service, Abreu Also Suggested The Possibility Of Customers Receiving Cashback In Crypto:

“Brazilians already have the culture of receiving card points, miles, discounts, etc. Why not receive cryptocurrencies with their credit card as well?”

Visa is no stranger to making headlines in the cryptocurrency space. In a bid to portray its pioneer status as a cultural intermediary of traditional and modern finance, Visa last month purchased a CryptoPunk nonfungible token avatar for 50 Ether (ETH) — $150,000 at the time of sale.

Updated: 10-15-2019

‘Fire Begets More Fires’: Rainforests Slip Into Cycle of Destruction

Research shows the very nature of rainforests is changing as a result of clearing.

As large tracts of Indonesia’s forest land go up in flames for the second time in five years, scientists are warning that the world’s rainforests risk becoming caught in a reinforcing cycle of destruction that could make them difficult to save.

Research in recent years has shown that the very nature of rainforests — from Southeast Asia to the Amazon — is changing as a result of extensive clearing for farms, pastureland and other use, making them much more vulnerable to further destruction.

“All the mechanisms essentially feed into a positive feedback loop,” said William Laurance, a research professor at James Cook University in Australia. “More fire begets more fires, more degradation begets more degradation.”

Deforested land dries out quickly in the sun and wind. Fires, both naturally occurring and man-made, can spread more easily from this degraded landscape into adjoining forest.

How Rainforests Collapse

Deforestation in tropical forests decreases rainfall, making the area drier and more vulnerable to fires.

There is another problem too. Clearing foliage reduces evapotranspiration, the process by which the forest releases water vapor into the atmosphere—which accounts for around a third of the rainfall in a rainforest like the Amazon, according to Dominick Spracklen, a professor at the University of Leeds who studies the link between rainforest and rainfall.

The reduction in water vapor decreases rainfall and extends dry seasons, making the forest more vulnerable to fire—and the fires more difficult to control. Last year, Thomas Lovejoy, a professor at George Mason University, and Carlos Nobre, a Brazilian scientist, wrote in an editorial in academic journal Science Advances that parts of the Amazon system could hit a tipping point and “flip to non-forest ecosystems” when deforestation reaches around 20% to 25%, given the added challenge of climate change.

Around 17% of the Amazon rainforest has been lost over the past half-century, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Indonesia’s rainforests, which are smaller than the Amazon, are already greatly diminished. Industrial agricultural expanded aggressively over the past few decades, making the country the world’s largest producer of palm oil. There is evidence that rainforest destruction have already changed weather patterns extensively.

Researchers found that by 2010, 70% of forest area on the Indonesian island of Sumatra has been converted for plantations and other purposes. Temperatures in the island’s Jambi province were nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit higher in 2015 than 2000, a study found—an increase researchers linked to heavy deforestation there. Forest fires were once rare in heavily forested parts of the island, such as Riau, near Singapore, but in recent years have occurred almost annually, say scientists.

On the nearby island of Borneo, mainly controlled by Indonesia and Malaysia, forestland declined by 30% in less than four decades leading up to 2010, making parts of the island hotter and more susceptible to fires. A recent study found that rainfall there had decreased by around 20% since the 1950s, and that deforested areas in the lowlands were around 3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than forested areas.

Scientists say climatic changes like these could have contributed to this year’s fires. A preliminary analysis by David Gaveau, a scientist who is an associate at Indonesia’s Center for International Forestry Research, found that many were started on degraded former forest land, now covered by fern and scrub, and spread from those dry areas into the rainforest.

“These fires today are legacy of past peat swamp forest destruction,” said Mr. Gaveau. “In a sense, you could say that tipping point has been reached.”

Concerns about Southeast Asia’s forests have spurred global campaigns against palm oil, found in products from soap and candy to biofuels and mainly produced in Indonesia and neighboring Malaysia. A European Union regulation published this year will phase out subsidies to palm-oil-derived fuels that aren’t certified as sustainable, beginning in 2024.

The governments of Indonesia and Malaysia have spoken out against the regulation, with Malaysia saying it will effectively ban palm-oil biofuel in the EU.

Jakarta says it is taking steps to improve forest conditions. In 2016 the government launched programs to restore peat swamp forests, which are naturally occurring waterlogged forests with spongy peat soil.

But that is a long, complex and costly process. The swamp forests of Borneo are crisscrossed by drainage canals to make it easier to burn and clear for agriculture. To restore their swampy nature requires backfilling the canals with compacted peat soil.

Nazir Foead, the head of Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency, said he was summoned to a meeting in August by the country’s president, Joko Widodo. The leader said local officials who failed to stop fires would be replaced.

Mr. Foead said Mr. Joko’s concerns were justified, but that during dry seasons as intense as the current one, it was a huge task to prevent fires from sparking and spreading.

“We fully realize that the weather can get more and more extreme and that the forest could be more and more vulnerable to fires,” he said.

The picture for the Amazon and the Congo Basin rainforests could be yet more dire. Indonesia’s rainforests are on islands and closer to the ocean than their counterparts in South America and Africa, which means they are less reliant on rainfall from evaporated forest moisture.

“You can say it’s the canary in the coal mine,” said Douglas Sheil, a professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. “If this is happening in Borneo, that’s scary.”

The Brazilian government seems to underestimate the impact of its environmental policies on the viability of the trade deal, Mr. Stuenkel added, since the increased deforestation has given fresh ammunition to groups in Europe that oppose the pact.

Updated: 4-22-2021

Brazil’s Climate Overture To Biden: Pay Us Not To Raze Amazon

President Bolsonaro’s proposition comes as Brazil seeks support from U.S. to curtail deforestation in world’s biggest rainforest.

Brazil’s government, widely criticized by environmental groups as a negligent steward of the Amazon rainforest, has made an audacious offer to the Biden administration: Provide $1 billion and President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration will reduce deforestation by 40%.

The proposal was made as the Brazilian president prepares for a virtual environmental summit with roughly 40 heads of state hosted Thursday and Friday by President Biden, who has made battling climate change a centerpiece of his administration.

European governments and activists have publicly expressed misgivings with Mr. Bolsonaro’s proposals on the environment because he has trimmed funds for environmental protection agencies amid an increase in deforestation.

But supported by some influential scholars and Amazon dwellers, Mr. Bolsonaro argues that the only way to save the jungle is through carbon credits and by financing sustainable economic activities so people can make a living from fish farming, cacao production and other activities that don’t require the razing of trees. The theme has been central to talks Brazil’s environment minister, Ricardo Salles, said he has had in recent weeks with Biden administration climate officials.

The request is likely just among the first of many similar to follow as developing nations start to negotiate with industrialized countries about who pays for costly programs to address climate change.

This fall, the nations of the world are to set new, more ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, and developing countries want their richer peers to make good on pledges from the original Paris climate negotiations to mobilize $100 billion a year in public and private financing for them.

Top Indian officials made that among their top requests to John Kerry, the Biden administration’s special envoy on climate change, when he visited earlier this month, according to the Indian Finance Ministry on Twitter. Officials from these countries, including Brazil, say industrialized nations must account for their historic contributions to climate change and the need for citizens in poorer countries to rise out of poverty.

“We need to focus on the people, the 23 or 25 million people who live in the Amazon,” Mr. Salles told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. “It’s an area where you have the worst human development index in the whole country. That’s why illegal activities have been so attractive.”

Mr. Salles said that Brazil has taken to heart Mr. Biden’s comments, made in a presidential debate last September, to gather $20 billion from around the world to help Brazil’s government cut forest destruction. The minister calculated that Brazil is entitled to as much as $294 billion for the big reductions the country made curtailing deforestation, even though they occurred long before Mr. Bolsonaro took office in 2019.

“We think that $1 billion, which is only 5% of the $20 billion that were mentioned during the campaign…is a very reasonable amount that can be mobilized up front,” Mr. Salles said.

He said a third of that $1 billion would be used to deploy specialized battalions to enforce environmental laws, while the remaining two-thirds would help fund nascent bio-industries that would provide alternatives to poor farmers who slash and burn to raise crops and cattle. Brazil says that with foreign aid, it would end deforestation by 2030.

“If we don’t give these people this economic support,” Mr. Salles said, “they will continue to be co-opted or incentivized by illegal activities.”

Biden administration officials didn’t respond to questions specifically about the Bolsonaro administration’s request for $1 billion. But a climate team headed by Mr. Kerry at the State Department sees Brazil as an important partner in reducing global greenhouse-gas emissions.

“We have a lot of work to do” before there’s an agreement, Mr. Kerry told reporters Sunday as he explained direct discussions on financing forest protection that are taking place with Brazil. “But we think it’s really worth working at because the rainforest is so critical, as a carbon sink, as a consumer of carbon, and it’s at risk.”

Mr. Kerry and other State Department officials also stressed the need for the Bolsonaro government to demonstrate its commitment to the environment by decreasing deforestation substantially. Deforestation is down overall since August, official government data shows, but has spiked since March.

“We want to see very clear tangible steps to increase effective enforcement and a political signal that illegal deforestation and encroachment will not be tolerated,” a State Department spokesman said.

The Biden administration has proposed $2.5 billion in total spending on international programs to curb climate change, quadruple the current budget. That includes $1.2 billion for the international Green Climate Fund, a program tied to the Paris accord and which would help developing countries such as Brazil cope with climate change and reduce emissions.

Mr. Kerry, in a recent trip to India, said the money would be just an initial down payment and that industrialized nations are still working to meet their $100 billion pledge.

Mr. Biden next is “going to make his own payment, the Biden administration payment, that he will put in additional money for these forward years, and I think that is called living up to your obligations,” Mr. Kerry said, according to a State Department transcript.

Environmental activists worry that by engaging Mr. Bolsonaro, Mr. Biden is enabling the Brazilian leader’s pro-development policy and further fueling destruction in the world’s largest rainforest, a biome essential for a stable global climate. Under Mr. Bolsonaro’s watch, Amazon deforestation jumped by 9.5% in the year ending July 31, 2020, a 12-year high.

“The government’s credibility to collect funds from other governments is entirely damaged,” said Carlos Rittl, a senior fellow at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Germany. “This is a blackmail discourse. The government should actually do something” before asking for foreign aid, said Mr. Rittl, who argues Brazil has the resources to sharply lower deforestation.

In contrast, Dan Nepstad, president of the Earth Innovation Institute, a Berkeley, Calif.-based environmental group that works with Brazilian farmers and government officials to support sustainable activity, said the Biden team’s strategy of “engaging and building up that dialogue has been a very wise move.”

He explained that in Brazil there is a growing concern by the powerful agricultural sector and government officials that deforestation could hurt the country financially. That has created more possibilities for foreign governments and environmental groups to engage Brazilian farmers and officials to find a solution.

Mr. Nepstad said the international community needs to do more to consider ways to compensate farmers in Brazil who are maintaining tree cover in the expectation that some kind of mechanism will be created to make the forest more financially valuable than fields cleared of trees.

“There’s been years and years of talk about the importance of sustained forest,” Mr. Nepstad said, “and we still in 2021 don’t have a robust mechanism for compensating the people who keep the forest standing.”

He added that “land prices are still higher without forest than with forest, and that’s the most clear indicator that we have ways to go.”

Updated: 4-22-2021

Brazil Has Climate Summit Shot At Redemption

Once a driver of deforestation, the state of Mato Grosso shows you don’t have to slash and burn the Amazon to thrive.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro needs no introduction at this week’s virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden. He rode into office in 2019 threatening to quit the Paris Agreement on climate change, courted miners and loggers and blew off international donors Norway and Germany rather than hear them harp about the fate of the Amazon rainforest. With an eye on reelection in 2022, he has habitually dissed any who would put trees before the stump.

Until now. Gone is the mercurial foreign minister who dismissed climate change as a globalist ruse. Logger-friendly Environment Minister Ricardo Salles is making nice with U.S. climate envoy John Kerry. And Bolsonaro wrote a seven-page letter to Biden, heralding the sustainability agenda and extolling Brazil’s green credentials.

This isn’t contrition so much as an existential reset. With Brazil’s fiscal accounts at a tipping point, a parliamentary inquiry looming over his handling of the world’s second deadliest Covid-19 outbreak, and a record 100-plus petitions of impeachment weighing against him, Bolsonaro has seen his approval ratings combust.

His bellicose environmental agenda, which drew sharp rebuke from leading U.S. Democrats, has made matters worse. With even the sympathetic business and agribusiness lobby losing faith, Bolsonaro knows he must pivot or turn pariah.

“Brazil needs to get in line, and not because Europe says so,” said Pedro de Camargo Neto, a farmer and cattleman and an outspoken critic of government environmental policy. “We need to comply with the law, full stop. What’s illegal is illegal.”

The good news is that Brazil can bring plenty to the table on sustainable development. Its grain belt is built on high-tech agriculture that avoids turning over the soil, thereby reducing erosion and keeping carbon in the ground. Hydropower lights up most homes and industry, with wind and solar quickly gaining on the grid.

Clean-burning ethanol distilled from sugarcane helps scrub tailpipe emissions. Even the mistreated Amazon is showing some promising green shoots. Played smartly, Brazil’s environmental assets could win back much of what 27 months of incendiary Bolsonarismo have menaced: aid, investment, strategic partnerships, international credibility and what remains of Brazilian soft power.

Hopes rise in unlikely places. Start with Mato Grosso, a sprawling frontier state almost three times the size of Germany that straddles three signature tropical ecosystems: the cerrado or savanna, the Pantanal wetlands and the Amazon’s high rainforest.

Once rued as a crucible for habitat destruction, a legacy that won a former state governor Greenpeace’s golden chainsaw award in 2005, Mato Grosso has shown it can sharply curb deforestation even as the Amazon region as a whole has not. The state’s success owes to policy penitence, technology, vigilance and boots on the ground.

After putting properties on a statewide digital grid, authorities monitored forest cover through satellite images and dispatched police and forest inspectors to keep farmers honest and catch scofflaws. In 2020, forest police seized 157 tractors, 11 trucks and a helicopter, and arrested 492 people for bootleg logging and forest cutting. More than 1,500 infractions have been heard this year, triple the amount from all of 2020.

Ramping up that system took years of commitment and cooperation between officials and producers. It also meant scything through red tape and jumbled land titles — some 80% of Mato Grosso’s 150,000 rural properties overlapped — and ditching the patchy federal forestry data bank for the state’s own system.

Mato Grosso hired 50 data analysts to rake through the records. The result: Outlaws are on the run, licensed deforestation rose five-fold, and overall felling is down by 33.7% from 2019, on top of a dramatic decline of 88% between 2005 and 2012.

Mato Grosso is one of only two Brazilian states to parlay its forestry stewardship into international compensation for slashing greenhouse gas emissions, part of the sustainability rewards outlined in the Paris accord. Tapping $8 million from the carbon credits for computers and forest monitoring technology, Environment Secretary Mauren Lazzaretti projects Mato Grosso will eliminate clandestine clear-cutting by 2030.

Mato Grosso can’t fix Brazil’s forest problem — climate treaties are agreements between national not local governments — but it can blaze a trail. “Mato Grosso shows that subnational states can develop their own compliance mechanisms, and that you don’t need to wait eternally for the federal government to act,” said Marcos Jank, a professor of global agribusiness at Insper, a Sao Paulo business school.

“Complying with the law matters and will garner preferential treatment by the markets.” This week, 24 of Brazil’s 27 governors penned their own sustainability pledge to stop “the climate emergency” by slashing greenhouse emissions.

Plenty of spadework remains. Brazil’s government argues, reasonably, that controlling the plunder depends on sorting out the tangle of property titles that constricts governance in the Amazon. Complying with the national Forestry Code — passed in 2012, but mostly tied up in litigation since — is crucial. Landgrabbers still want to game the code, yet without it, the Brazilian frontier would still be at the mercy of pirates and chainsaws.

Yet even the most judicious forest code means little in land where government has gone AWOL. Illegal forest cutting is off the charts on public lands. Most of the clandestine destruction plays out on so-called “non-designated” territory; that’s legal speak for 50 million hectares of forests (an area the size of Spain) owned by the government but controlled by no one. “Essentially, they are no-man’s lands,” said Rodrigo Lima, managing partner of Agroicone, an agriculture consultancy and think tank.

Bertamoni suddenly found himself 16,000 bags of corn short of what he had promised to deliver to trading houses in Sao Paulo. The contract stipulated he had to fork over $120,000 to make up the difference. This wouldn’t work. He didn’t have that kind of cash. So he brokered a deal with them: He’d turn over 20,000 bags from next year’s harvest instead.

Bertamoni is relieved, albeit a bit edgy. It should all work out fine, he figures, just as long as the rains come and he can keep the fires at bay.

Updated: 9-21-2021

Top Brazilian Investment Bank BTG Pactual Launches Crypto Trading App

Initially supporting only BTC and ETH, BTG Pactual’s new crypto trading platform plans to allow its users to trade a wide range of altcoins.

Leading Brazilian investment bank BTG Pactual has launched a new platform that enables customers to make direct investments in cryptocurrencies.

The bank’s Mynt platform currently allows users to purchase Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH), with BTG Pactual expressing its intention to launch support for additional crypto assets in the future. Andre Porthilo, BTG Pactual’s head of digital assets, stated:

“At this first moment, we will have the two main assets of the market, but we will include other cryptos for trading over time. We will have a complete platform with blockchain-based assets.”

BTG Pactual CEO, Roberto Sallouti, described Mynt’s creation as being in response to “demand from our customers who wish to trade crypto.”

Sallouti added that Mynt plans to host education content designed to inform new users about cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, stating: “As a new asset class, we will also have content to educate and inform our customers about these assets and the technology.”

According to local news outlet The Rio Times, Mynt’s launch makes BTC Pactual the first major Brazilian financial institution to allow its customers to “participate directly” in the crypto asset markets.

Porthilo asserted that the bank’s status as being regulated by both the Brazilian Securities Commission and local central bank will lend credibility to the country’s burgeoning crypto sector.

“With the support of BTG Pactual, Mynt has fundamental differentials in security and credibility,“ he said, adding the characteristics “are fundamental in a new category of investments with which most people [are] not yet used to.”

Mynt is not BTG Pactual’s first foray into the crypto sector, with the bank launching its real estate-backed security token ReitBZ in 2019 after spending a couple of years examining digital assets.

In April of this year, BTG Pactual also became the first Brazilian investment bank to launch a crypto fund after unveiling its Bitcoin 20 Multi-Market Investment Fund.

Updated: 9-27-2021

The Country That Makes Breakfast For The World Is Plagued By Fire, Frost And Drought

Brazil’s crops have been scorched, frozen and then dried out by the worst drought in a century, upending global commodity markets.

No country on Earth puts more breakfasts on kitchen tables than Brazil.

The farms that dot the vast plains and highlands that rise above the Atlantic coast produce four-fifths of the world’s orange juice exports, half of its sugar exports, a third of coffee exports and a third of the soy and corn used to feed egg-laying hens and other livestock.

So when the region’s crops were scorched and then frozen this year by a devastating one-two punch fueled by climate change — the worst drought in a century followed by an unprecedented Antarctic front that repeatedly coated the land in thick frost — global commodity markets shook.

The cost of Arabica beans soared 30% over a six-day stretch in late July; orange juice jumped 20% in three weeks; and sugar hit a four-year high in August.

The price spikes are contributing to a surge in international food inflation — a U.N. index has jumped 33% over the past 12 months — that’s deepening financial hardship in the pandemic and forcing millions of lower-income families to scale back grocery purchases across the globe.

What’s more, the episode is sending an ominous warning of what’s to come as scientists anticipate rising global temperatures and declining soil humidity will increasingly wreak havoc on farm lands in Brazil — and much of the rest of the world.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” says Marcelo Seluchi, a meteorologist at Brazil’s Natural Disaster Monitoring and Alert Center. “There is no rain because there is no humidity, and there is no humidity because there is no rain.” Deforestation of the Amazon, which ranchers clear cut to raise cattle and plant crops, is playing a big role, he says. By his calculation, Brazil hasn’t had a normal rainy season since 2010.

“It’s been a very peculiar year,” he says. “Floods in Germany and China, and there’s a very serious drought problem in Brazil.”

There’s also drought across the border in Argentina and in Chile, Canada, Madagascar, Mexico and Russia. The U.S. has been cleaved in two this summer: The West has been ravaged by record heat waves, forest fires and a drought so severe that, like in Brazil, giant lakes and rivers are drying up and straining hydro-electric power; the East, meanwhile, has been drenched by record-setting tropical storms and deadly floods.

“The world is on a very dangerous path,” Seluchi says.

All of this, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, will lead to a 10% decline in crop yields over the next three decades, a period in which the global population is expected to grow more than one-fifth.

The destruction wrought in Brazil provides a glimpse of that future. Between the drought and the frost, crops on some 1.5 million square kilometers of land have been damaged — an area the size of Peru. The coffee losses are the most stunning: as much as 1.3 billion pounds of beans destroyed, enough to brew every single cup that Americans drink over a four-month period.

This has triggered a frantic rush among the world’s biggest coffee retailers — companies like Starbucks Corp. and Nestle SA — to secure supplies.

“These guys are scrambling pretty hard,” says Jack Scoville, a trader at commodities broker Price Futures Group in Chicago. Starbucks said in a statement that it always buys months in advance, and Mark Schneider, Nestle’s CEO, told investors on a July conference call that the company protected its finances by purchasing hedging contracts that stretch into early next year.

Scoville, though, warned that successfully locking in prices isn’t the same as getting enough coffee over the long term. Brazil’s poor harvest will roil the market for years, he predicts. He’s seeing buyers who normally get all of their beans from Brazil and Vietnam suddenly turn elsewhere to try to make up for shortfalls.

That’s exactly the situation that Bader Olabi, a roaster in Istanbul, finds himself in. He’s hunting for new suppliers in Colombia, India and Africa to replace the 100 containers of beans he gets from Brazil each year. He knows it won’t be easy to convince customers that those coffees are just as good. In Turkey, Olabi says, “Brazilian coffee is the best.”

In Austin, Texas, Greater Goods Coffee Co., a specialty roaster, is planning to raise prices soon to offset the higher cost it had to pay for beans. Sara Gibson, the head roaster, calls it a wake-up call to customers. They’ll have to accept higher bills to help make farming more sustainable in the era of climate change, she says. “That’s my hill to die on.”

Brazil is now predicting its coffee crop will shrink by more than 25% this year. Ground zero for this wipeout was Caconde, a hamlet carved out of the lush hardwood forests of northwestern Sao Paulo state.

Coffee is 80% of the economy here. Stand on top of the highest peak and it’s coffee farms as far as the eye can see. One of them is a tidy, little plot owned by a 70-year-old former banker by the name of Antonio Ribeiro Goulart.

Goulart lost it all when the frost hit.

The leaves on every single tree he has — some 11,000 in all — went from a vibrant green to a dull brown in the span of 24 hours. One month later, he still seemed in a state of shock. He kept running his hands slowly through the dead branches as he talked. The leaves would crackle and then crumble into tiny pieces. “They were completely spectacular before the frost,” he says softly.

Goulart’s family has owned this plot for over a century. He inherited it from his father and settled in after spending some three decades at Banco Bradesco. He was a mid-level sort there, tasked with running a branch in downtown Sao Paulo when he retired ten years ago.

Back in 2019, he had pledged a portion of this year’s crop to a supplier that sold him a new husking machine, but that was impossible now. There will be no harvest for Goulart this year or next. Even 2023 is almost certainly lost. He will call the supplier and renegotiate the terms, he said.

And then, like thousands of farmers around him, he will lop off all the branches on all the trees in the hope that the trunks sprout new shoots. If they do not, as he fears, he will cut them down to the stump and start from zero.

“There is no other solution,” he says.

Goulart may have loved the way his trees looked before the polar winds swept through, but the truth is the harvest in Caconde was already weak. The drought, which is now in its seventh month, was far too harsh to produce a good crop. Soil humidity was down to a mere 20%. Ideally, that number would be closer to 60%, says Ademar Pereira, the head of the local coffee growers’ association.

Pereira is standing on top of a bluff and pointing out all the tell-tale signs of the bone-dry weather: the manicured lawns that have turned into brown carpets; the gash that a recent wildfire left in a far-off mountain; and the hydroelectric reservoir down in the valley that is so low that marinas that were built right on the water’s edge now stand a quarter-mile away.

“We’ve never seen that before,” Pereira says.

When you tally up the accumulated rain shortfall over the past decade across many basins in Brazil, it comes to about a year’s worth of precipitation, according to ONS, the national electrical grid operator. The monsoons that farmers rely on have been arriving later and later each year.

The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts this trend will worsen in coming years, with longer dry seasons stretching from central Brazil up into the Amazon.

It was along the outer edge of the rain forest, in a town called Nova Mutum, that Cleverson Bertamoni saw his corn fields go up in smoke one July day.

Bertamoni frantically piled farm hands into his two water trucks and sent them out to douse the fire. Still, it raged on. Bertamoni pleaded for help. His neighbors rushed over 13 more trucks. By the time the flames were finally out, some six hours later, almost 250 acres had been destroyed.

For Bertamoni, 43, it was unlike any fire he’s ever encountered in a career that began when he was a young boy following his parents into their soybean and corn fields. The ground is so dry now, he said, that a simple spark from a combine was enough to trigger the blaze. “It spread so fast.”

Bertamoni suddenly found himself 16,000 bags of corn short of what he had promised to deliver to trading houses in Sao Paulo. The contract stipulated he had to fork over $120,000 to make up the difference. This wouldn’t work. He didn’t have that kind of cash. So he brokered a deal with them: He’d turn over 20,000 bags from next year’s harvest instead.

Bertamoni is relieved, albeit a bit edgy. It should all work out fine, he figures, just as long as the rains come and he can keep the fires at bay.

Updated: 10-5-2021

Brazilian Congress To Consider Bill Regulating Crypto Exchanges

The legislation would require companies to maintain closer records of their transactions and customers and create more severe penalties for crypto-related crimes.

Brazil’s congress will discuss a bill that regulates companies operating in the cryptocurrency sector and increases penalties for crypto pyramid schemes and other illegal activities.

A special commission of the Brazilian House of Representatives already approved the bill presented on Sept. 29. If approved by the plenary, the legislation, which was introduced by federal deputy Aureo Ribeiro, would force “virtual asset service providers to follow rules of communication of financial transactions, with identification of customers and recordkeeping,” according to a Portuguese-language text published on the Brazil congressional website.

The bill would also increase the penalty for money laundering crimes using virtual currencies, including bitcoin.

Currently, the penalty for money laundering in Brazil consists of imprisonment for three to 10 years and a fine, according to the chamber’s website. If the bill passes, penalties for crypto-related fraud would be four to over 16 years imprisonment, plus a fine.

The proposed law would give companies operating in the sector 180 days to adapt to the new regulations.

The bill comes as more Brazilians are investing in cryptocurrencies and awareness of the sector has widened. João Manoel Pinho de Mello, director of the Central Bank of Brazil (BCB), recently said that a significant migration from paper currency to digital means of payment will take place in the next few years, and BCB President Roberto Campos Neto has said Brazil could be ready for a digital currency in 2022.

In July, Mercado Bitcoin, the largest crypto exchange in Brazil, raised $200 million in a Series B funding round from the SoftBank Latin America Fund and became the first Brazilian crypto unicorn after it got a $2.1 billion valuation.

Ribeiro’s bill covers a wide range of companies that provide crypto-related services such as exchange and custody.

According to the bill, “only institutions authorized to operate by the Central Bank of Brazil may exclusively provide the service of virtual assets, or accumulate it with other activities.” That will occur within the framework of a regulation issued by an agency or entity chosen by the executive branch of the country, the website text added.

The House of Representatives announced that the proposal must be analyzed at a general session of the lower house but didn’t specify when that debate will take place.

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