Brazil achieves record low in Amazon deforestation, and dishes it to the less effective developed world.
The Brazilian government announced yesterday that deforestation rates in the Amazon has hit a record low. Of course, I imagine they were waiting for the Cancun climate conference to release this information, but it is uplifting and important nonetheless. Brazil is showing that it is one of the world’s few major economies seriously tackling its portion of the global weirding crisis.
“We will honor the pledge we made and we don’t need any favors. We do it because it’s our obligation,” said President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Lula da Silva went on to also discuss the rich, developed world’s failure to reach its greenhouse gas emissions targets and its failure to be open and fair in its aid to developing nations.
“Deforestation fell to around 2,509 square miles (6,500 sq km) in the 12 months through July 2010, down 14 percent from the year before and a peak of 11,235 square miles (29,100 sq km) in the mid-1990s,” Raymond Colitt of Reuters reports. “It is the lowest rate since the series began in 1988.”
What brought the deforestation rate down? A lot of government work, consumer pressure, and watchdog organizations.
Increased policing and pressure from consumer groups were instrumental in bringing down deforestation. The government’s environmental watchdog has in recent years fined illegal cattle ranchers and loggers, confiscated their products, and cut off bank loans to them. Beef and soy industries have declared voluntary bans on products from illegally deforested areas.
The latest reduction in deforestation occurred despite high commodity prices, which usually drive more loggers and cattle ranchers into the forest seeking cheap land.
“There’s been a decoupling, this is a big step forward,” said Paulo Barreto, senior researcher at the Imazon think tank in Belem. “Of course, it’s still an unacceptable rate and the government needs to do more to support the small guy in the forest,” said Barreto, citing growing financial and public opinion pressure on ranchers as a reason for progress.
The challenges and failures are still high:
- the amount destroyed in the past year is equal to the size of a small country;
- more was destroyed than Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira was hoping for; and
- increasing drought and forest fires due to global weirding.
But the progress has been huge.
Nonetheless, continued progress is going to get more challenging, as the illegal logging that is going on now is happening at a smaller scale and is, thus, harder to catch.
The things the country needs to do now, to continue achieving reductions in deforestation rates and make a switch to a more sustainable economy are:
- give greater funding to monitoring and enforcement efforts; and
- transform into a forest-based economy that thrives by protecting its forests not cutting them down.
Hopefully, Brazil can makes these changes, continue reducing deforestation of the Amazon, and reach its annual deforestation target of 1,351 square miles (3,500 sq km) by 2020. And of course, we can all do our part by buying recycled or sustainably-certified products and eating vegetarian.
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Photo Credit: Amazon River and Rainforest in Brazil by longan drink via flickr (CC license)