Brazil Says Amazon Deforestation Reached 20 Year Low

Deforestation in Brazil The president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, announced that deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon dropped 45.7 percent from August 2008 to July 2009. The announcement was made during a meeting of Lula state governors and mayors in Brazilian capital BrasÀ­lia.

According to new data based on analysis of satellite imagery by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), an estimate of 7,008 square kilometers of forest were cleared in Brazil during the 12-month period, the lowest rate since the government started monitoring deforestation in 1988.

"The new deforestation data represents an extraordinary and significant reduction for Brazil. Climate change is the most challenging issue that we face today," said President Lula following the meeting.

According to the Ministry of Environment, the slowing deforestation levels are primarily a result of the Action Plan for Deforestation Control and Prevention in the Amazon, a set of cross-government policies and measures launched in 2004 to improve monitoring, strengthen enforcement, define conservation areas and foster sustainable activities in the region.  With the support of 13 government agencies, the plan played a major role in helping reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 74.8 percent from 2004 to 2009.

The INPE data indicates that the projected 32 percent increase in inspection operations over the last year was instrumental in inhibiting illegal deforestation in the Amazon. Satellite images from INPE's near real-time deforestation detection system enabled government inspectors to focus their efforts where deforestation is most critical and act quickly to prevent new areas from being cleared.

As a result of this surveillance, the Brazilian Environment Institute apprehended around 230,000 cubic meters of wood, 414 trucks and tractors, and embargoed 502,000 hectares of land linked to illegal deforestation activities in the region over the period from August 2008 to July 2009, leading the government to issue over R$ 2.8 billion reais (US$ 1.6 billion) in fines.

In addition to fines, the government used other tools to financially constrain those whose activities contribute to the destruction of the forest. This includes a resolution enacted by the National Monetary Council in mid-2008 that requires farmers and ranchers in the Amazon to meet environmental criteria in order to obtain loans from public and private banks.

Federal and state governments also worked to create around 50 million hectares in new conservation units in the Amazon from 2004 to 2008, while another 10 million hectares in indigenous lands were granted recognition in the same period. Today, 43 percent of the legal Amazon is federally protected.

The government also initiated a concession scheme for sustainable management in public forests. The first concessions were granted in August 2008, enabling three private groups to carry sustainable logging and extraction activities in 96,000 hectares of the Jamari Public Forest, in the state of Rondônia.

Deforestation in the Amazon region is the main source of Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions. According to the first National Inventory of Greenhouse Gases, up to 75 percent of Brazil's emissions come from deforestation and land use change.

For this reason, tackling deforestation is at the center of Brazil's strategy to combat global warming. Launched in December 2008, the National Plan on Climate Change sets targets to cut deforestation rates by 80 percent by 2020, which would avoid 4.8 billion tons in CO2 emissions during this period.

To meet these goals, the plan sets out a number of actions and programs to combat illegal logging and provide sustainable economic alternatives to the people living in the Amazon, among other measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in different sectors.

  Evolution of deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon

  Year          Rate (km²)
  2000          18,226
  2001          18,165
  2002          21,523
  2003          25,396
  2004          27,772
  2005          19,014
  2006          14,196
  2007          11,633
  2008          12,911
  2009           7,008

  Source: National Institute for Space Research (INPE)

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