In 2020, destruction of the world’s largest rainforest increased 9.5% from the previous year to 11,088 km2 (2.7 million acres), according to data from the Brazilian national agency Inpe space research facility, seven times the size of London.
This means Brazil will miss its own target, set under a 2009 climate change law, to reduce deforestation to around 3,900 km2. The consequences of not meeting the target are not spelled out in law, but could expose the government to prosecution.
The official annual measurement, known as PRODES, is taken by comparing satellite images from late July 2020 with those from early August 2019. These dates are chosen to coincide with the Amazon dry season, when there is less. cloud cover to interfere with calculations.
The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world and its protection is crucial to stopping catastrophic climate change due to the large amount of carbon dioxide it absorbs.
The latest annual destruction is a substantial increase from the 7,536 km2 that were deforested in 2018, the year before Bolsonaro took office.
While environmentalists blamed the government for the rise, federal officials hailed the numbers as a sign of progress in the fight against deforestation, as the increase was well below the 34% increase recorded in 2019.
“Although we are not here to celebrate this, it means that the efforts we are making are starting to bear fruit,” Vice President Hamilton Mourao told reporters at Inpe headquarters in the satellite city of Sao Paulo. , Sao Jose dos Campos.
Bolsonaro weakened environmental fraud agency Ibama and called for the introduction of more commercial agriculture and mining in the Amazon region, saying this would lift the region out of poverty. Conservationists said it had encouraged illegal herders, miners and land grabbers to clear the forest.
“The figures from PRODES show that Bolsonaro’s plan worked. They reflect the result of a successful initiative to destroy the ability of the Brazilian state and inspection bodies to take care of our forests and fight crime in the Amazon, ”the non-organization said in a statement. Brazilian government Climate Observatory.
The president’s main political response to the global outcry over the destruction of the Amazon has been to send military personnel, who were deployed for the first time in 2019 and are expected to stay in the region to fight deforestation and forest fires. until April 2021.
More recently, deforestation declined from July to September compared to the same months a year ago, according to preliminary data from Inpe, but resumed its course in October.
European leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron have sharply criticized Brazil, arguing that it is not doing enough to protect the forest. Joe Biden’s victory in the US presidential election has raised the possibility that the US is also stepping up pressure on Brazil over the rainforest.
Biden said during a debate the world should donate money to Brazil to fund efforts to stop deforestation, and threatened economic consequences against the Latin American nation if it didn’t. The comment drew heavy criticism from Bolsonaro, who said it was a threat to Brazil’s sovereignty.