Pace of Amazon Deforestation Reaches Lowest Rate Ever Recorded

Deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon declined 14 percent from August 2009 to July 2010.

Deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon declined 14 percent from August 2009 to July 2010, reaching the lowest rates ever recorded for the second consecutive year, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced. Satellite images analyzed by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) show that an estimated 6,450 square kilometers of forests were cleared in the 12-month period, bringing rates to their lowest since monitoring began in 1988.

The decrease contributes to reducing Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions, as global negotiations progress at the 16th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change underway in Cancun, Mexico.

"We are fulfilling the commitment we have made in Brazil. We will fulfill it because it's our obligation to do so," Lula said. He also announced new integrated policies to promote sustainable development in the Amazon region, alongside the first results from Brazil's deforestation monitoring system in the Atlantic Forest.

"We are committed to advancing the reduction in deforestation, improving monitoring, and creating the conditions for sustainable development in the region," said Minister of Environment Izabella Teixeira, who joined Lula for the announcement. "We are doing our homework, and the world needs to respond accordingly."

In 2009, Brazil mandated a cut in its projected greenhouse gas emissions of between 36.1 percent and 38.9 percent by 2020. Deforestation reduction is a critical part of the strategy to reduce those emissions; official calculations estimate that meeting deforestation reduction targets could reduce Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions by up to 24.7 percent. In October 2010, Lula projected that Brazil would meet its goal of reducing Amazon deforestation by 80 percent by 2016, four years earlier than planned.

According to the Ministry of Environment, the successive drops in Amazon deforestation rates are a result of the Plan for Amazon Deforestation Prevention and Control, a set of government policies that combine enhanced satellite monitoring and enforcement operations with land tenure regularization, alongside initiatives to encourage sustainable activities in the region. Implementation of the plan was instrumental in helping to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 76.8 percent from 2004 to 2010.

These policies include:

  • Sectoral Pacts: Engaging state governments, civil society, and the private sector has also played a major role in curbing deforestation, including efforts to renew sectoral pacts to halt the conversion of forests for soybean production in the Amazon. In July 2010, Brazil extended its ban on the commercialization of soy grown in the Amazon for the fourth consecutive year. In addition, seven of the nine Amazon states have already developed and approved their own action plans to fight deforestation at the local level.

  • Leadership in Conservation Areas: An important part of the government's strategy to prevent deforestation and conserve Brazil's biodiversity-rich forests is the creation of protected areas. According to the Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, a report the United Nations Environment Programme released earlier this year, nearly 75 percent of the 700,000 square kilometers of protected areas created around the world since 2003 are located in Brazil.

  • Increased control and enforcement: Satellite images analyzed by INPE's near-real-time deforestation detection system have enabled the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, with support from the Federal Police, to set up precise and effective enforcement operations to halt illegal deforestation as it happens.