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The Brazilian government is in the process of implementing a broad portfolio of infrastructure investments to address its poor infrastructure. Many of these projects are located in the Amazon, which is the world’s largest tropical forest and a vital natural resource that provides essential ecosystem services for the national economy. Given the ecological role of the Amazon region, it is imperative to measure the socio-environmental risks of infrastructure projects and assess the extent to which they can be prevented or mitigated. For these reasons, gaining a better understanding of the processes of contracting environmental studies is relevant to identify bottlenecks and propose strategies that lead to the implementation of more robust projects with less impact and better mitigation measures.

Social and environmental risks of infrastructure are currently assessed by Brazil’s public administration during two moments in the project life cycle: during the Technical, Economic, and Environmental Feasibility Studies (Estudos de Viabilidade Técnica, Econômica e Ambiental – EVTEA) and during the Environmental Impact Assessment (Estudo de Impacto Ambiental – EIA). The quality of EVTEA and EIAs is crucial for the decision-making process of determining whether the administration moves forward with a project and for robust project development.

In this report, researchers from Climate Policy Initiative/Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (CPI/PUC-Rio) summarize an in-depth analysis of the contracting process for EVTEA and EIAs. They provide recommendations on how these processes can be improved. The report finds that the contracting process lacks clarity. The researchers found a lack of transparency in the selection, evaluation, and approval of studies. Additionally, the budgets do not always specify how the money should be allocated, and when they do specify, money is primarily allocated for the diagnostic analysis. This report identifies an opportunity to anticipate part of the analysis to earlier phases on the project life cycle.

KEY FINDINGS

  • The lack of transparency in public contracting processes hinders the ability of civil society and academics to monitor how the environmental studies are selected, assessed, and approved.
  • The lack of clear criteria in the public notices for EVTEA and EIA contracting hinders a deeper understanding on how the budget is allocated in each of the studies’ socio-environmental components
  • Budget allocation mainly in the socio-environmental diagnostic analysis opens an opportunity to shift some of this analysis to earlier phases prior to the environmental licensing in the project life cycle.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Define clear criteria in the public notices for EVTEA and EIA selection, assessment, and approval.
  • Establish upfront in public notices how the budget should be allocated through the studies, indicating the public administration’s priorities.
  • Shift some of the socio-environmental diagnostic analysis, currently concentrated in the EIAs, to the EVTEA or, ideally, to a new pre-viability phase to be introduced in the project life cycle, to unburden the environmental licensing process, ensure more robust assessments of infrastructure projects, and improve the quality of projects that reach the implementation phase.
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