WorldDeforestation in the Amazon is the biggest in 15 years, and the...

Deforestation in the Amazon is the biggest in 15 years, and the government is accused of hiding COP26 data

The Brazilian Amazon lost 13,235 square kilometers of trees in one year, according to the latest annual balance sheet, released this Thursday with great discretion by the Government of Jair Bolsonaro. The figure indicates that illegal deforestation between August 2020 and July 2021 increased 22% compared to the previous period, when it totaled 10,851 square kilometers. It is the largest recorded in the last 15 years. This annual report, prepared with satellite measurements from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), is the most anticipated by everyone involved in the protection and preservation of the largest tropical forest in the world. It’s like a final test, the measure of success or failure.

It is also the yardstick by which the world measures the environmental performance of the country that is home to most of the world’s largest rainforest. This year, the note points to a glaring failure.

The significant increase registered by the Prodes system will contribute to aggravate the climate crisis, but it is also a diplomatic problem for the Brazilian president. The accelerated disappearance of vegetation in the Amazon represents a threat to the future of Brazil and the planet. As the forested area of ​​the Amazon shrinks, the forest loses biodiversity and its ability to cool the planet and slow global warming. The Prodes system counts deforested areas of more than 6.25 hectares, which makes it the most accurate among those used in Brazil.

The balance was known when the Government made it available on the internet, without advertisement or presentation, through a note. The declaration is not dated from this Thursday, but from the last October 27th, therefore before the start of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. Scientists and environmental NGOs accused the Executive and Environment Minister Joaquim Leite of hiding the information they had during negotiations in which Brazil pledged to completely eliminate deforestation by 2030. They also accuse the Brazilian authorities of having misled the rest of the summit attendees when presenting the results of another measurement, that of the Deter system alerts, which is less accurate and yielded much more positive data.

The Climate Observatory claims that these 13,235 square kilometers illegally deforested in one year reveal “the triumph of the Bolsonaro ecocide project”. For Greenpeace, “the government tried to wash away its image in Glasgow knowing it had broken a record of deforestation.” The organization warned that the encirclement of Brazil is tightening because, for example, the European Commission has proposed preventing the entry of soy, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, beef, wood and its derivatives into the European Union’s markets if they come from areas of deforestation.

Illegal logging has been on the rise since 2017, but since the far right and science deniers came to power in 2019, the logging area’s growth has accelerated, driven by several factors. Its environmental policy has consisted of weakening inspection and surveillance structures, in addition to giving wings to those who explore the forest by circumventing the laws. Bolsonaro fired veteran environmentalists from their positions to replace them with military police in charge of agencies responsible for protecting the environment, indigenous peoples and biodiversity.

The president has kept his promise not to demarcate another centimeter of ecological reserves or indigenous lands, and Congress is working on a bill to legalize mining on land that is now legally untouchable for commercial exploitation.

The imposition of fines for crimes against the environment has plummeted in recent years. The measures that the Government has adopted, in the face of pressure from other countries, investors and NGOs, have not had significant effects. Sending thousands of soldiers was costly and ineffective in curbing the increase in deforestation, as the balance sheet indicates. The Environment Minister maintains that the figures released on Thursday “do not reflect the Government’s actions in recent months” with the detachment, for example, of members of the National Guard. The Bolsonaro Government insists on proclaiming that it will not tolerate illegalities in the Amazon, but the truth is that it is enough to go there to witness the speed with which deforestation, the occupation of land by cattle and the invasions of prospectors in indigenous lands are advancing.

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