Brazil’s Amazon endures fastest deforestation rate in 15 years

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon has surged to a 15-year high, according to data that raises new questions about Brasília’s commitment to ending the destruction of the world’s largest rainforest.

More than 13,200 square kilometers of rainforest were razed in the 12 months from August last year to July – a 22% increase from the previous year and the highest rate of deforestation since 2006 – according to data released by the National Institutes. published Thursday for Space Research.

Over the past three years, Brazil has lost more than 30,000 square kilometers of tree cover in its rainforest – an area the size of Belgium – mostly to illegal loggers, cattle ranchers, gold miners and land grabbers.

The clear data comes just weeks after Brazil won praise for its commitments in COP26 Summit in Glasgow, including a pledge to eliminate illegal deforestation by the end of the decade, if not sooner.

While lauded by diplomats, these pledges have been met with skepticism from environmental campaigners, who insist that President Jair Bolsonaro has regularly signaled support for the deforestation.

A week before the COP summit, the right-wing populist leader met gold miners in a camp in the northern Amazonian state of Roraima.

“Ever since his campaign, Bolsonaro has said he is against [environmental protection groups] Ibama and ICMBio and any kind of field monitoring. This has the power to accelerate the situation [regarding deforestation],” said an environmental enforcement officer based in the rainforest.

“Today, these illegal groups firmly believe that they can clear forests or mine in protected areas or within indigenous lands. It’s a big change, and I really think it’s the worst change that can happen.”

Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Brazilian Climate Observatory, said the data released on Thursday reflected “the result of a sustained, planned and ongoing effort” by the Bolsonaro administration to erase abandon national environmental protection policies.

“Unlike the propaganda that the government and its allies put out at COP26 in Glasgow, this is the real Brazil, from the scorching earth to the out-of-control organized crime in the world. Amazon, “I said.

Joaquim Leite, Brazil’s environment minister, said the data did not reflect the government’s recent efforts to combat deforestation, which included hiring 700 more environmental enforcement officers and allocating massive funding. than for the country’s environmental protection agencies.

“The results are yet to show up in the numbers. We will start making budgets worth millions [of reais] for Ibama and ICMBio to make them more modern,” he said.

This issue is likely to increasingly weigh on Brazil’s international relations, especially with European nations.

Earlier this week, Virginijus Sinkevicius, the EU’s oceans and environment commissioner, told the Financial Times that Brussels had sought to ban the import of foods, such as beef and soybeans, from at-risk areas. Deforest.

The draft legislation being considered by the bloc, if passed, would force companies to prove that the products they sell into the EU single market do not contribute to legal and illegal deforestation or forest degradation through agricultural use.

Crossing nine Latin American countries and home to some 390 billion trees, the Amazon rainforest acts as a giant carbon sink for emissions from around the world.

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