A new report by Brazilian research institute Imazon shows that the Amazon forest has experienced the highest level of annual deforestation in a decade. Despite global calls for action, poor policies championed by President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil have contributed to increased deforestation.

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Data released by Imazon shows that 10,476 square kilometers of the Amazon were deforested between August 2020 and July 2021. That’s almost 13 times the size of New York City. According to Imazon data, the area deforested this year is about 57% higher than the previous year and is the worst since 2012.

Related: The Amazon rainforest now emits more carbon than it absorbs

Scientists have previously warned that continued deforestation spells doom for the area once known as one of the world’s largest carbon sinks. Last month, a different study found that the Amazon forest had started emitting more carbon than it absorbs. Human activities, such as agriculture and logging, can be blamed for the turn of events.

Carlos Souza, a researcher at Imazon, has criticized the Brazilian government for setting policies that go against the global climate agenda. “Deforestation is still out of control,” Souza said. “Brazil is going against the global climate agenda that is seeking to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

According to Souza, urgent action is needed from the Brazilian government. He called for the resumption of policies that outlaw the destruction of the forest, such as “illegal agriculture-led deforestation.” Souza also points at budget cuts for the environment ministry as one of the causes of the slow down in environmental protection action.

Since taking power, President Bolsonaro has facilitated a watering down of environmental protection policies. Although Bolsonaro has deployed thousands of soldiers to combat illegal deforestation, his administration’s definition of the term “illegal deforestation” has been questioned. 

Marcio Astrini, the executive secretary of Climate Observatory, says that Bolsonaro’s strategy has so far been ineffective. “The data shows that it didn’t work,” said Astrini. “No army operation will be able to mask or reverse the attacks of the federal government against the forest.”

Astrini said that deforestation rates in 2021 are already almost 50% higher than the rate in 2018 when Bolsonaro took office. “The measures that benefit the export of illegal timber – the reason why Salles had to leave office – are still in place,” he said.

Via The Guardian

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