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Amazon deforestation fell by 22% in the first annual balance since Lula returned to power

Amazon deforestation fell by 22% in the first annual balance since Lula returned to power

A deforested area in the Amazon region during an anti-illegal logging operation near Urara, in Pará state, in January 2023.Osley Marcelino (Reuters)

The more accurate and reliable measurement has confirmed the trend indicated by preliminary data in recent months. Deforestation in the Amazon fell by 22.3% between August 2022 and July 2023, according to the latest annual budget conducted by the Brazilian Institute for Space Research (INPE) and released on Thursday. That is, the world’s largest tropical forest, a key ecosystem for mitigating global warming, lost 9,001 square kilometers in that period, an area equivalent to the size of Cyprus. These data represent good news for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who, since his return to power, has made protecting the Amazon region and the environment among his priorities. During Jair Bolsonaro’s term, illegal logging increased rapidly and the downward trend only changed in his final year. He was considered a planetary environmental villain.

Annual data on deforestation in the Amazon is an end-of-year test for Brazil’s governors facing the outside world. They all realize that the world, for more than two decades, has been measuring its country’s environmental performance by percentage of increase or decrease. During the election campaign, Lula promised complete deforestation by 2030, his most ambitious goal.

Presenting the results, Environment and Climate Change Minister Marina Silva declared: “This result is the result of all the work of all of us. It’s a job we already have know how [conocimientos técnicos] From our previous management. “We have modernized it now and we are seeing these results,” explained the veteran politician who has held the same position for two decades, also with Lula. This was the period when Amazon deforestation suddenly decreased. During her five years as minister in that first phase, illegal logging was halved to 12,900 square kilometres.

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The ravages of climate change can also be observed in the Amazon region. The Amazon River, the longest and largest river in the world, is suffering from a historic drought exacerbated by the El Niño phenomenon, while Manaus and other cities in the region have been surrounded for weeks by suffocating smoke caused by illegal fires.

Lula intends to travel to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), which begins at the end of this month in Dubai. There is no doubt that the Brazilian president will use this 22.3% reduction in deforestation in the Amazon region as a negotiating mouthpiece at the UN climate summit. It is also expected to be used in Mercosur’s complex negotiations with the European Union to try to permanently close the trade agreement, which has been stalled by environmental demands. Uruguay gave an ultimatum to close it before the end of the year. Both Lula and Spanish President Pedro Sanchez have committed to strengthening efforts to achieve that date now that Brazil, Mercosur, and Spain hold the EU presidency.

The Space Research Institute compiles this annual tally of deforestation based on satellite measurements using a system called Prodes, which is more accurate at calculating the area of ​​trees lost than the Deter system, which provides weekly data but based on alerts that teams of environmental agents use to populate Inspectors.

President Lula and Marina Silva have put aside their differences to join together on the campaign trail with a shared mission to defeat Bolsonaro at the ballot box. The demand of the former rubber tapper in support of the leader of the Brazilian left was that the environmental protection policy be comprehensive. It took political will and means. Minister Silva congratulated herself on the fact that environmental inspectors have doubled under this government.

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Bolsonaro came to power in 2018 with rhetoric of disdain for environmental policies and denial of the climate emergency that emboldened all kinds of criminals illegally exploiting the Amazon. For the former soldier, the most effective way to combat misery in that region, the poorest in Brazil, was to exploit the riches of the tropical forests.

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