Despite COP26 pledges, Amazon forest sees worst deforestation in 15 years

Deforestation in Brazil‘s Amazon rainforest soared 22% in the past year to the highest level since 2006, according to official data published on November 18, undercutting president Jair Bolsonaro’s assurances that the country is curbing illegal logging.

Brazil was among a number of nations that promised to end and reverse deforestation by 2030 during the COP26 climate summit.

The Amazon is home to about three million species of plants and animals and one million indigenous people. It is a vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming.

The National Institute for Space Research’s Prodes monitoring system showed the Brazilian Amazon lost 13,235 square kilometres of rainforest in the period from August 2020 to July 2021. Early data for the 2021-2022 period shows further deterioration.

Environment Minister Joaquim Leite said the data represents a "challenge" and said, "we have to be more forceful in relation to these crimes".

He added that the data "does not exactly reflect the situation in the last few months".

“It is a shame. It is a crime,” Márcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, a network of environmental nonprofit groups, told The Associated Press. "We are seeing the Amazon rainforest being destroyed by a government which made environmental destruction its public policy."

Mr Bolsonaro took office with promises to develop the Amazon and dismissed global outcry about its destruction. His administration has defanged environmental authorities and backed legislative measures to loosen land protections, emboldening land grabbers. This week at a conference in the United Arab Emirates to attract investment, he told the crowd that attacks on Brazil for deforestation are unfair and that most of the Amazon remain pristine.

Deforestation of the Amazon has increased under President Jair Bolsonaro. who has encouraged agriculture and mining activities in the rainforest? He has also clashed with Inpe in the past over its deforestation, accusing the agency in 2019 of smearing Brazil's reputation. But at November's climate conference in Glasgow, Brazil was among a number of nations who signed a major deal to end and reverse the practice. The pledge included almost £14bn ($19.2bn) of public and private funds. Some of that will go to developing countries to restore damaged land, tackle wildfires and support indigenous communities.

Mauricio Voivodic, head of environmental group WWF in Brazil, said the numbers laid bare “the real Brazil that the Bolsonaro government tries to hide with imaginary discourses and greenwashing efforts abroad”.

“What the reality shows,” he said, “is that the Bolsonaro government has accelerated the course of the Amazon’s destruction.”

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