Brazilian Amazon deforestation, up 60% increase under Bolsonaro, drops
Annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has fallen 11.27% from the previous year, according to official data.
New government data show that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has decreased in the 12 months through July, as incoming President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva seeks to restore protection for the vital rainforest.
According to INPE data released on Wednesday, 11,568 square kilometers (4,466 square miles) of forest cover were destroyed in the Brazilian Amazon from August 2021 to July 2022.
This was an 11% decrease from the same period last year when deforestation reached a 15-year high under far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
“It’s better to have a lower number than a higher number, but it’s still a very high number – the second highest in 13 years,” said Marcio Astrini, head of the Climate Observatory, an environmental advocacy group.
The data released on Wednesday marked the end of four years of what environmentalists call disastrous Amazon management under Bolsonaro, who has been accused of weakening environmental and Indigenous protection agencies in favor of agribusiness and mining interests.
Under Bolsonaro, the average annual deforestation increased by 59.5% over the previous four years and 75.5% over the previous decade, according to INPE figures. “The Bolsonaro government was a forest-destroying machine… The only good news is that it’s about to end,” Astrini said in a statement.
“The devastation remains out of control. Jair Bolsonaro will hand his successor a filthy legacy of surging deforestation and an Amazon in flames.”
Bolsonaro's office and the environment ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Experts say the vast majority of the clear-cutting and fires erasing the Amazon are to create new farmland -- especially for cattle ranches in Brazil, the world's top beef exporter.
The deforestation figures show the Amazon is being pushed toward a "tipping point", warned Mariana Napolitano, science director at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Brazil office.
"Significantly reducing deforestation... is imperative for humankind in the face of the twin climate and nature crises the world is facing," she said in a statement.
Lula to the rescue
However, Lula, a left-wing leader who won elections last month in a close race, has promised to work toward zero deforestation when he takes office on January 1, knowing that annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell by 75% during Lula's first presidency.
“Brazil is ready to resume its leading role in the fight against the climate crisis,” he said shortly after being declared the winner of the October 30 presidential run-off.
He also spoke at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt earlier this month, telling hundreds of attendees that "Brazil is back in the world."
Indigenous leaders have raised concerns about the threats to their communities in the Brazilian Amazon under Bolsonaro, particularly in areas with little government oversight that farmers, miners, and poachers are attempting to control and exploit.
Last year, the Indigenous Missionary Council recorded 305 cases of "invasions, illegal exploitation of resources, and property damage" on Indigenous territories, affecting 226 Indigenous lands in 22 Brazilian states.