In December 2016, Brazil's government amended its constitution to freeze public spending on biodiversity protection for the next 20 years, along with funding for scientific research, education and health care. As conservation scientists in Brazil, we believe that the country's remarkable biodiversity is an important natural heritage that should be at the top, not the bottom, of the government's spending priorities — especially in light of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (

Called PEC 55 (see Nature 539, 480; 2016), the law will limit expenditure by the main environmental agencies, such as the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources and the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation. No more staff can be recruited to perform inspections and enforce regulations. This means that land exploitation, wildlife trafficking and biopiracy will increase markedly over the next 20 years.

PEC 55 cannot be reversed or modified to incorporate exclusions, despite the public outcry (more than half a million people signed a petition before the law was passed; see However, changes relating to expenditure may be considered ten years after the amendment was enacted. This may be too late for the country's biota, given Brazil's already poor record of environmental protection.