On Monday (November 30), the long awaited preliminary INPE data on deforestation in the Amazon were released: the official rate for 2020, according to the Prodes system, is 11,088 km2, the highest since 2008. This represents a 9.5% increase from last year.
Taking into account the average rate for the ten years prior to Jair Bolsonaro’s inauguration, deforestation has increased 70 percent: from 2009 to 2018, the average rate calculated by Inpe was 6,500 km2 per year.
This rate means that Brazil has officially failed to meet the goal established in the National Policy on Climate Change (PNMC), the national law that called for a reduction to a maximum rate of 3,925 km2 by 2020. The country is currently 180% above such target, placing it at a disadvantage to fulfill its commitments under the Paris Agreement (the NDC) from the beginning of next year. Due to the increase in deforestation, Brazil is expected to be the only major emitter of greenhouse gases to see an increase in its emissions during a year when the global economy all but stopped due to the pandemic.
None of this comes as a surprise to anyone who has been following the dismantling of environmental policies in Brazil since January 2019. The Prodes figures simply show that Jair Bolsonaro’s plan worked. They reflect the result of a successful project to eradicate the ability of the Brazilian State and of inspection bodies to take care of our forests and to fight crime in the Amazon. This is the price the country is paying for the “let’s push the whole lot through” attitude defended by the minister of the Environment.
Landgrabbers, illegal miners and loggers, and murderers of indigenous people know how to interpret the signals that come from the government and, in an unprecedented way, from the minister of the Environment himself. Deforestation, despite its many complex causes, is above all driven by expectations. When the President of the Republic says that he will “make the State leave alone” forest predators, lawlessness advances in the country. When he and his aides go beyond a mere discourse and actually begin to take action in that direction, criminals celebrate.
And those actions were plentiful.
We have witnessed over the last 22 months a stay in the enforcement of fines by Ibama, the freezing of the Amazon Fund under false pretenses, the rigging of the National Environment Council, a gag order affecting Ibama and ICMBio, the harassment and dismissal of environmental agents for doing their job, the disregard of technical opinions by the head of Ibama to satisfy outlaws and release illegal wood, the submittal of proposals to Congress to make indigenous lands available for exploitation and to legalize land grabbing, the attempt to legalize the theft of unapproved indigenous lands, the criminal failure to spend funds earmarked for inspection and environmental actions, the defamation of those who produce technical and scientific knowledge and an improvised attempt to militarize the forest.
This set of factors also led to the unprecedented failure, in 2020, of an expensive and sloppy military operation in the Amazon. Employing more than 3,400 military agents, Operation Verde Brasil 2 failed to contain both deforestation and fires in the Amazon, which, by November, were 20% above the already scandalous rates of 2019. (Read our analysis of the plans for the Amazon outlined by the military Amazon Council.)
“Usually, when deforestation goes up, we are left wondering what went wrong in the attempts made to control environmental crime. This time, we know that the increase happened because everything went exactly as the government intended”, says Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of Observatório do Clima.
“This destruction project that has been so well executed will cost the country dearly. We are losing trade agreements, literally turning our soft power into smoke and increasing our international isolation at a time when the world is entering a critical realignment driven by the need to address the climate crisis”, he adds.
“This government works as a machine to produce shameful news for the country, especially in the environmental area. Bolsonaro is the main saboteur of Brazil’s image”.
About Observatório do Clima: a network formed in 2002, composed of 56 non-governmental organizations and social movements. It fosters progress of dialogue, public policies and decision-making processes on climate change in the country and globally. Website: www.observatoriodoclima.eco.br.