- An area equivalent to the size of Qatar was cleared in the Brazilian Amazon between Aug. 1, 2021, and July 31, 2022, according to data from the country’s National Space Research Institute (INPE).
- Although the figure represents an 11.27% decrease in the Amazon annual deforestation rate compared with the prior year, the government of President Bolsonaro still accounts for the most Amazon destruction in the last 34 years, environmentalists say.
- Bolsonaro’s four-year term ends with a 59.5% boom in Amazon deforestation rates, the highest in a presidential term since 1988, when measurements by satellite imagery began.
- INPE’s report, dated Nov. 3 but only released 27 days later, also triggered criticism among environmentalists, who accused the Bolsonaro’s administration of omitting the annual deforestation data until the end of the UN conference on climate change, COP27, held Nov. 6-20 in Egypt.
Annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon dropped 11.27% compared with the prior year, official data show. But the government of President Bolsonaro still accounts for the most Amazon destruction in the last 34 years, environmentalists say.
Between Aug. 1, 2021, and July 31, 2022, an area of 11,568 square kilometers (4,466 square miles) — equivalent to the size of Qatar — was cleared, according to preliminary analysis of satellite imagery released Nov. 30 by the country’s National Space Research Institute (INPE). The deforestation for the prior period (Aug. 1, 2020, to July 31, 2021) was 13,038 km2 (5,034 mi2), the highest since 2006.
Since Bolsonaro took office in January 2019, he has dismantled environmental agencies and slashed budgets for operations to fight environmental crimes. He also has pushed an anti-environmental and anti-Indigenous agenda in Congress, dubbed the “death package.”
As a result, his four-year term ends with a 59.5% boom in Amazon deforestation rates, the highest in a presidential term since 1988, when measurements by satellite imagery began, according to the Observatório do Clima, or the Climate Observatory, a network of Brazilian civil society organizations advocating for climate action.
“The Bolsonaro regime was a forest-burning machine. The outgoing President was sworn in with deforestation at 7,500 km2 and is stepping out with 11,500 km2. The only good news here is precisely that he is stepping out,” Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory said in a news release.
The state of Amazonas was the only one that showed an increase in deforestation rates (2,607 km2 or 13.05%), INPE data show, while Amapá state accounted for the highest percentage of deforestation rate reduction (6 km2 or 64.71%). On the other hand, although Pará recorded a 20.94% decrease in its deforestation rate, the state remains the largest absolute contributor to Amazon deforestation with 4,141 km2 (1,599 mi2) alone in 2022, INPE noted.
INPE’s report, dated Nov. 3 but only released 27 days later, also triggered criticism among environmentalists. “As in 2021, Jair Bolsonaro’s administration continued opting to omit the annual deforestation data until the end of the UN conference on climate change, COP27, held between November 6 and 20, in Egypt,” Greenpeace said in a news release. “The attitude is one more of the actions of the federal government that seek to camouflage its vexatious legacy of much destruction.”
NGOs urge recently elected President Lula to take immediate measures to tackle deforestation in the Amazon. “If Lula wants to see the numbers of forest destruction decrease in 2023, he will have to have zero tolerance with environmental crime since day one in office. And that includes bringing to justice those who sabotaged environmental governance in the country while occupying the government in the last four years,” said Astrini.
Banner image: Patchwork of legal forest reserves, pasture, and soy farms in the Brazilian Amazon. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.
Karla Mendes is a staff contributing editor for Mongabay in Brazil. Find her on Twitter: @karlamendes
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In final days before Bolsonaro’s defeat, deforestation boomed in Brazil
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