Foto: Vinícius Mendonça/Ibama


Deforestation grows unchecked in 2021

A 5% drop in the number of alerts simply reflects the dynamics of environmental crime, while the government that buried a combat plan peddles Army action like it did with chloroquine

06.08.2021 |


The accrued number of deforestation alerts in 2021 covered 8,712 km2, according to data released this Friday (August 6) by Inpe’s Deter system (this figure refers to July 30, with one day left to close the cycle for calculating deforestation, which runs from August of one year to July of the following year). This is the second highest figure since the series started in 2016, second only to last year. The three record- breaking highs in the series took place during the Bolsonaro administration, when alerts have increased by 69.8% when compared to the average rates of previous years.

Not even General Hamilton Mourão, commander of the Amazon Council, was able to celebrate the 5.4% drop in the number of alerts when compared to 2020. A few weeks ago he had promised the press that deforestation would fall by 10% but, on Monday (August 2), he stated that the target would not be met. Last year, when speaking to foreign ambassadors, he had been even more optimistic: he promised them a 15% drop.

Even dead trees in the Amazon know that none of the figures that the government brings to the table has any credibility, since Brazil lacks what is essential: a policy to control deforestation. Instead, for two and a half years, Jair Bolsonaro’s administration has been pursuing the dismantling of environmental governance and actively encouraging crime. “The fate of the forest is in the hands of gangs of land grabbers, illegal loggers and miners. Today, they are the ones who define what will be the official deforestation data. In the Amazon, environmental crime operates freely and in partnership with the current administration”, says Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of Observatório do Clima.

The deforestation control plan created in 2004 was abandoned. At the end of June, after two and a half years in office, Minister Ricardo Salles was accused of setting up a criminal organization within the ministry to favor loggers. The “obliteration of Ibama” ordered by Bolsonaro at the beginning of his term has decreased by half the fines for crimes against the flora in the Amazon, when compared to 2018, the last year before the beginning of the current administration. The government also paralyzed the Amazon Fund and suspended the collection of environmental fines in the country. So far, the new minister, Joaquim Leite, has not taken any action that goes against the policies of his predecessor.

On the contrary, the federal government now has fundamental and even more dangerous support to continue with the dismantling: the parliamentary group known as Centrão, headed by Arthur Lira (PP-AL). The Chairman of the House of Representatives approved, within a few weeks, the end of environmental licensing and the potential eternal amnesty for land grabbing, the main driver of deforestation in the Amazon. “The expectation of amnesty with the approval of the Bill of Law on Land Grabbing is an incentive to deforesters and tends to make control of the destruction all the more difficult. The high rates of deforestation and the dismantling of environmental legislation have worldwide repercussions and cause immense damage to the country’s image. This is the scenario that Brazil will bring, in a few months, to the UN climate conference”, says Astrini.

The Army’s sporadic actions, such as the failed Operation Verde Brasil and now Operation Samaúma, which the satellites also show are failing, are peddled as effective actions to foreign governments concerned about the impact of deforestation on the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1,5oC. However, in the absence of any public policy other than the forest looting promoted by Bolsonaro, Mourão and Lira, those actions are as effective as chloroquine.

Record number of mining and degradation alerts

This mark coincides with the discussion in Congress of a bill of law submitted by Bolsonaro in early 2020 to allow free mining in indigenous lands, in addition to the boycott of several operations against illegal mining. In April 2020, Ibama’s head inspectors were dismissed after they carried out an operation to combat mining in indigenous lands in Pará.

Forest degradation (when part of the vegetation is removed) also reached a record- breaking level: 6,062 km2 in 2021, the highest mark since 2017, which was the beginning of the available series. There was an 87% increase in forest degradation when compared to 2018. The area affected by selective logging (i.e., wood extraction) alone almost tripled in 2020 and 2021 when compared to the average number of alerts of previous years. This timeframe coincides with the actions of Ricardo Salles and the suspended president of IBAMA, Eduardo Bim, to loosen controls on wood exports. Both Salles and Bim are now being sued for those actions.

About Observatório do Clima: a network formed in 2002, comprising 66 non- governmental organizations and social movements whose mission is to foster dialogue, public policies and decision-making processes on climate change in the country and globally. Website:

Press information

Solange A. Barreira

[email protected]

+ 55 11 9 8108-7272


Our initiatives