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Brazil: Amazon deforestation rate falls since Bolsonaro

July 7, 2023

Satellite images have shown a 33.6% decrease, but the area of rainforest cleared during the first half of 2023 is still greater than the size of Luxembourg.

Trees lie in the forest after being cut down in Acre state Brazil.
Lula is also seeking support from other nations to preserve the AmazonImage: Eraldo Peres/AP Photo/picture alliance

In an announcement made Thursday, the Brazilian government stated that deforestation in the Amazon rainforest decreased by one-third during the first six months of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's administration, compared to the same period last year.

The decrease of 33.6% was determined on the basis of satellite images provided by the National Institute of Space Research.

These images indicated that from January to June, approximately 2,649 square kilometers (about 1,025 square miles) of rainforest were cleared, in contrast to the 3,988 square kilometers that were deforested in the first half of 2022 under the previous administration of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

"The effort of reversing the curve of growth has been reached. That is a fact: we reversed the curve; deforestation isn't increasing," Joao Paulo Capobianco, the Environment Ministry's executive secretary, said during a presentation in Brasilia.

Despite the drop, the area cleared during the first half of this year is still greater than the size of Luxembourg.

Why has there been a drop in Amazon deforestation?

The reduction in deforestation was particularly significant in the month of June, with a 41% decline compared to June 2022.

Environment Minister Marina Silva said in a press briefing that the fall in deforestation was a direct result of the Lula government ramping up resources for environmental enforcement.

Whether annual deforestation will show a decline remains unclear, as the annual peak in deforestation and fires from July to September lies ahead.

Under Bolsonaro's leadership from 2019 to 2022, deforestation in the Amazon had surged by 75% compared to the average of the previous decade. Lula had campaigned last year with pledges to rein in illegal logging and undo the environmental devastation. 

How does Brazil protect the Amazon?

Last month, President Lula launched an ambitious plan to address illegal deforestation in the Amazon. This initiative followed the passage of legislative changes that limited certain powers of the environment ministry by opposition lawmakers in Congress.

Lula's administration has committed to seizing half of all illegally deforested land in areas with special environmental protection designations. They also aim to allocate three million hectares (7.4 million acres) of protected land by 2027 and strengthen Brazil's environmental monitoring network.

"The government is taking action once again by enforcing the law and protecting the invaluable treasure that is the Amazon. This is leading to a decline in deforestation numbers," emphasized Marcio Astrini, leader of the Climate Observatory environmental group.

Additionally, Lula has been actively seeking financial support from the world's wealthiest nations to fund initiatives focused on safeguarding the rainforest. This complements the ongoing efforts made by Norway and Germany through theAmazon Fund.

Brazil: Indigenous communities fear for property rights

EU-Mercosur trade agreement

The issue of environmental protection holds significant importance as the South American trade bloc Mercosur negotiates a long-awaited free trade agreement with the European Union.

Recently, the European Union presented new requirements for Mercosur countries to combat environmental crimes, underscoring the significance of environmental preservation in trade negotiations.

tg/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)