Good news: 68% reduction in Amazon deforestation

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Drone aerial view of deforestation in the amazon rainforest.

Recent preliminary data from the Brazilian government indicates a marked drop in deforestation in the country’s Amazon rainforest, falling 68% in April compared to the previous year, as reported by Reuters. This development marks a welcome achievement for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as it represents the first major decrease in deforestation since his inauguration.

The President had pledged during his election campaign last year to curb deforestation, a problem that had significantly escalated under the leadership of his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro. However, since taking office, Lula has faced considerable obstacles, particularly as the environmental agency Ibama struggles with staff shortages.

According to official data from the space research agency Inpe, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon was limited to 328.71 square km (126.92 square miles) last month, notably lower than the historical average of 455.75 square km for the same period. This change breaks the trend observed in the past two consecutive months of increased deforestation, with the total land clearing so far this year now down by 40.4% to 1,173 square km.

Under Bolsonaro, environmental protection measures were severely undermined, with substantial cuts to both funding and staff in vital agencies, whilst simultaneously advocating for more farming and mining activities on protected lands.

However, experts caution against celebrating too soon. They argue that it is premature to confirm a downward trend as the annual peak in deforestation, which typically occurs from July to September, is still looming. Nevertheless, this significant reduction in deforestation is viewed as a positive sign, particularly given the exponential increase in rainforest destruction witnessed in late 2022.

Daniel Silva, a conservation specialist at WWF-Brasil, commented, “There are several factors, and the change in government might indeed be one of them. The environmental agenda has been resumed, but we know time is necessary for the results to be reaped.”

Lula has emphasised the urgency for Brazil to demonstrate that his administration is not merely paying lip service to environmental protection but is actively working towards fulfilling its commitment to ending deforestation by 2030.

Earlier this month, this pledge was reaffirmed when Lula secured an £80 million ($100.97 million) contribution from the UK for the Amazon Fund, a project aimed at combatting deforestation, also supported by Norway, Germany, and the United States.

In a move to further differentiate his policies from those of Bolsonaro, Lula has also resumed recognition of Indigenous lands and announced new job vacancies at the environment ministry and the indigenous agency, Funai. This move is seen as a significant step towards reinstating and strengthening environmental protection mechanisms in Brazil.

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