The Brazilian government announced this week that deforestation in the Amazon fell 14 percent in the August 2009 to July 2010 period compared with the previous year. Satellite monitoring showed that 6,450 square kilometers (2,490 square miles) of the world’s biggest rainforest were cleared during this latest reporting period—a stark decline from a peak of 29,100 square kilometers (11,235 square miles) in the 1994 to 1995 period.
The government’s announcement coincided with a United Nations global climate conference in Cancún, Mexico, in which Brazil wants to showcase its progress and reiterate its commitment to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Isabella Teixeira, Brazil’s Minister of the Environment, said the achievement means Brazil is well on its way to achieving its self-imposed goal of reducing deforestation—a major contributor to the country’s overall carbon emissions—by 80 percent over historic highs by 2020. Brazil is likely to use the news to seek a bigger role in climate negotiations, especially under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), where it could potentially get paid billions for slowing deforestation.
At a ceremony Wednesday in Brasília, the Brazilian government criticized industrial nations for not doing their part to commute greenhouse gas emissions. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said news of the reduction showed Brazil was “keeping its promises” on addressing global warming, while advanced countries “are still not doing anything.”
Environmental groups, including Greenpeace International, celebrated the announcement as proof that deforestation can be halted—and accompany a period of economic expansion. The low rate of deforestation can be attributed both to increased policing and pressure from consumer groups, with the government fining illegal cattle ranchers and loggers and confiscating their products, and the beef and soy industries voluntarily banning products from illegally deforested areas.