Immoral Amazon deforestation high is not incompetence; it’s by design
Devastation alerts in 2020 set a new record even with the Army in the Amazon, and Jair Bolsonaro may become the first President with two record highs in a row
PRESS RELEASE BY THE CLIMATE OBSERVATORY
Only someone living under a rock would be surprised by the new increase in deforestation alerts in the Amazon, which reached an immoral 9,205 square kilometers in 2020. The 34% increase in the rate of devastation this year, as measured by Inpe (National Institute for Space Research), has two aggravating factors: it comes in the heels of a year that had already seen the greatest level of deforestation since 2008. And it occurs even after three months of Army presence in the forest – in theory to fight deforestation.
Deforestation in the Amazon is always measured from August to July of the next year. This happens because August is near the peak of dry season, when cloud cover decreases and satellite imaging becomes easier. Therefore, the July 2020 data, released on Friday (August 7th) by Inpe, complete the 2020 measurement.
Since the election campaign that led Jair Bolsonaro to the Presidency of Brazil, deforestation alerts have doubled in the Amazon. The alerts from the near-real-time Deter satellite system are actually an underestimate; the official devastation rate, given by the more accurate Prodes system, will be known only by the end of the year. However, if the variation between Deter and Prodes figures remains at the historical average, we could have about 13,000 square kilometers of deforestation, the highest rate since 2006 and three times more than the National Climate Change Policy target for 2020. It will also be the first time in history that deforestation in the Amazon faces two consecutive increases of around 30%.
This is not because of government incompetence in combating devastation; it has been happening because the Bolsonaro administration’s agenda is to actively promote devastation. This is not incompetence; it’s a design.
Since the beginning of the government, several stakeholders – ranging from scientists to indigenous peoples, including former ministers, environmental organizations, federal civil servants and the Public Prosecutors’ Office – has been denouncing the systematic dismantling of the Brazilian environmental governance: the veiled closure of the Ministry of Environment, the shelving of plans to fight deforestation in the Amazon and in the Cerrado (savanna) region, the disregard for the Paris Agreement, the harassment of inspectors and the ideological and illegal omission to invest in the fight against environmental crimes, despite a budget of nearly US$ 400 million in unspent funds to do so.
Such set of actions and omissions, which the Environment Minister so well summarized in the infamous expression “plow through with deregulation”, is directly responsible for the uncontrolled deforestation, which turns Brazil into an international pariah and threatens to take away investments at the moment when they are most needed, i.e., at the post-pandemic economic recovery.
Statements by members of the Climate Observatory:
“The explosion of deforestation in the Amazon has as an important cause the discourse of the President, which delegitimizes environmental inspection while stimulating the occupation of the region in a predatory model. The Environment minister follows his boss’s orders. Who profits from this is the illegal logger, the land grabber, the investor in uncontrolled mining that exploits slave labor. If it wanted to control deforestation, and this never appeared to be the real intention, the government would resume the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Amazon and reinforce the actions of Ibama and other environmental agencies, instead of spending money on the Armed Forces’ theatrical performance.” Suely Araújo, Senior Specialist in Public Policy at the OC
“The numbers show, once again, the truth that the government has been striving to hide. Fighting deforestation is done with transparency, science, protected areas, efficient specialized bodies and social control. All those things that Bolsonaro hates. The destruction policy promoted by the government empowers those who profit from the forest on the ground and threatens those who struggle to keep it standing, dragging Brazil backwards. By ignoring the importance of conserving our natural wealth, the Bolsonaro administration negatively impacts Brazilians, the country’s economy, and global climate.” Mariana Mota, Public Policy Coordinator at Greenpeace Brasil
“It will be difficult to contain deforestation if the government continues with its intention to change land legislation and legalize deforested and illegally invaded areas. Land grabbing is a vector of deforestation, which is encouraged with the expectation of amnesty and legalization.” Brenda Brito, associate researcher at Imazon
“Inpe data indicate that Brazil has failed to comply with its climate change law, whose goal for 2020 was to limit deforestation in the Amazon to a maximum of 3,925 km2. This also diverts us from the Paris Agreement route, which will create a series of trade difficulties for Brazil in the critical period of economic recovery expected for the post-pandemic period. Crime took over the Amazon, encouraged by the Bolsonaro administration itself.” Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory
“The rise in deforestation alerts between the year of Bolsonaro’s election and this year was of 101 percent. In what became a joke in Brazil, former President Dilma Rousseff once said that we’d double the target when we reached the target. Mr. Bolsonaro has scrapped the target and doubled deforestation.” Caetano Scannavino Filho, coordinator of Projeto Saúde e Alegria