Amazon deforestation rate in 2019 puts Brazil at stake in the climate debate

18 de November de 2019 | News

Nov 18, 2019 | News

The announcement of 2019 Amazon deforestation rates by the Brazilian government has shown that forest clearing has gained traction when it should ease. Between August 2018 and July 2019, 9,762 square kilometers were deforested – an increase of 30% over the previous year, according to the official system Prodes, from INPE (National Institute for Space Research).

This number is dangerously close to a double-digit level – a scenario that Brazil has not seen for a decade. It is the highest rate since 2008, when the Amazon Fund has started to operate by the federal government.

Brazil has not been able to control the destruction of the world’s largest rainforest, and the announcement reinforces that fact. Another number consolidates this impression: according to Deter, a different INPE monitoring system, 40% of the deforestation between January and July of this year has happened in undesignated lands and areas with no tenure indication. Public lands, in other words.

“Public lands are areas of government responsibility, where command and control strategies are fundamental to avoid land grabbing and illegal logging,” says Ane Alencar, IPAM Amazonia Senior Science Director. When deforestation grows inside those areas, as it did between 2018 and 2019, the governance fragility is clearly exposed.

In the eve of the 2019 UN Climate Conference, the increase of the Amazon deforestation plus the fire peaks in August and the violence increase toward traditional populations weaken Brazil’s position as a forest and climate champion. The country is becoming a pariah in times where environmental assets have great value in international relationships. 

Brazil has the opportunity, again, to reduce deforestation in the Amazon whereas it grows economically. That has happened in the last 15 years, when the annual Amazon deforestation rate has fallen from 27,800 km² (in 2004) to 5,000 to 6,000 km² (between 2012 and 2015), while both agricultural production and GDP have increased substantially. . The existence of more than 10 million hectares of abandoned or poorly used pasture in the region, and the migration to cropland, partially explains the wconomic growth with less deforestation.  

Initiatives that stimulate the forest economy must fly. At the same time, public policies that incentivize sustainable land use practices must be designed and implemented. The Amazon states have to be stimulated and supported to increase environmental monitoring and land regularization efficiency. The public forces must get back to track and the non-designated public lands should be directed to environment preservation. A more protected Amazon represents a better reputation for Brazil in the international arena, but more than that, assures water provision to the future of agricultural production and power generation.

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