Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell nearly 46% to the lowest annual loss on record in 2009, the government reported Nov. 12. The government’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) found that 7,008 square kilometers (2,705 square miles) of forest were cleared during the 12-month period ending July 2009, the lowest extent since annual record-keeping began in 1988. “The new deforestation data represents an extraordinary and significant reduction for Brazil,” President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said in a statement.
Brazil attributed most of the reduction to increased enforcement effort, including fines, arrests, and seizure of cattle and crops produced on illegally deforested lands. However, some analysts suggest that falling commodity prices have had a more significant impact in the trend. Agricultural production is an increasingly important driver of forest clearing and conversion in the Amazon.
The reduction in deforestation comes a year after Brazil announced an ambitious plan to reduce forest loss 80% by 2020 as part of its climate policy. Deforestation accounts for more than three-fifths of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 20% of emissions worldwide. Brazil is seeking billions of dollars from industrialized nations for its efforts to reduce deforestation—certain to be a key demand at the upcoming climate summit in Copenhagen.
Environmental groups meanwhile warn that the rainforest is still being destroyed. “The reduction is important but a lot of trees are still being cut down in Amazonia,” said Paulo Adario, director of Amazon campaigns at Greenpeace. “We are going to remain vigilant so that the trend continues and allows us to realize the dream of zero deforestation.” (Mongabay, BBC News, CSM, Nov. 13)