LatinNews Daily - 19 November 2021

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BRAZIL: Annual deforestation soars

On 18 November, Brazil’s national space research institute (Inpe) released its annual Prodes deforestation data, which shows that Amazon deforestation has soared to its highest level in 15 years. 


The numbers are dire. Preliminary monthly figures had indicated that deforestation might have fallen this year compared with the previous one, while the Brazilian government has just committed to ending illegal deforestation by 2028 as part of pledges made at the COP26 climate conference – a target which appears difficult to attain right now. 

  • The Inpe has found that 13,235km2 of forest were cleared in the Amazon between August 2020 and July 2021. This is a 22% increase on deforestation levels in the August 2019-July 2020 year, and the highest figure recorded since 2006. Deforestation in Brazil dropped dramatically in the late noughties, but began to edge up again from 2015 onwards. Since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January 2019, deforestation has surged every year.  
  • The latest deforestation data casts further doubt over the commitments Brazil made at the COP26 earlier this month to end deforestation and cut emissions – the two are closely linked, with land use changes the largest source of carbon emissions in Brazil. Scientists also warn that the Amazon is approaching a tipping point, where it will emit more carbon than it can absorb.
  • Compounding doubts about Brazil’s good faith, it appears that the government deliberately held back on making the Prodes data public until after the international climate conference was over. The Inpe’s report is dated 27 October, while a union representing Inpe civil servants had released a note on 17 November saying the government had the data in hand ahead of the COP26 and deliberately chose to keep it under wraps. Environment Minister Joaquim Leite has denied having access to these deforestation figures prior to yesterday. 
  • In a press conference yesterday, Leite said that the government would be more “forceful” in tackling crime in the Amazon, but stressed that these figures did not reflect the recently stepped-up efforts to fight deforestation. Environmental NGOs say that, on the contrary, the deforestation figures reflect the Bolsonaro government’s true intentions and colours. 

Looking Ahead: With the Amazon vital to the global fight against climate change, and such a level of forest loss flying in the face of Brazil’s recent COP26 pledges, a reaction from the international community is to be expected. 

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