Environmental licensing and environmental impact assessment have been increasingly implemented by Brazilian municipalities, which have been historically plagued by problems of institutional capacity. The aim of this article was to critically synthetize the regulations and scientific empirical studies about the decentralized implementation of such tools in Brazilian municipalities, as well as to explore the perception of specialists about this phenomenon. This study adopted a predominantly qualitative and sequential approach, informed by data collected through content analysis of state regulations and a focus group. Overall, findings show that part of the objectives of the 25 reviewed regulations is not clearly reflected in practice. The 53 identified publications corroborate the existence of problems of institutional capacity in municipalities. The focus group revealed that decentralization, despite the challenges, could be a driver of institutional capacity at local administrations. The article highlights the need for capacity-building and institutional innovation, and suggests future avenues of research.
Environmental licensing; impact assessment; political decentralization; learning; Brazil