Brazil just released some encouraging figures that suggest the government has been able to drastically reduce the rate of deforestation in the Amazon. According to reports, deforestation has been reduced by 84 percent over the past eight years, putting the nation on track to meet goals set at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. However, concerns are being raised that this positive trend is already reversing, with an uptick in destruction of the Amazon’s canopy in recent months.
According to Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira, in July 2012 the government “reached 76 percent of its voluntary deforestation reduction goal in the Amazon as agreed in Copenhagen in 2009.” This goal stipulates an annual maximum deforestation area of 1,505 square miles by 2020. In the fourth consecutive year of reduced deforestation, 1,764 square miles of the Amazon’s trees were destroyed in the period from August 2011 to July 2012, a 27 percent reduction from the same period in the previous year.
However, unofficial figures for the period from August 2012 to April 2013 suggests that deforestation is on the rise again. 730 square miles are reported to have been destroyed in that time period, a 15 percent increase on the same nine month period in the previous year. While some of this deforestation may be the result of “wildfires and other natural deterioration,” Reuters reports that the government has been slow to enact its “forestry code,” fostering uncertainty among farmers and local authorities that may conversely be prompting increased destruction.
The forestry code will require the replanting of an area roughly the “size of Italy,” with farms and ranches registered to determine where the replanting will take place—in addition to efforts to catalogue all existing trees.. The process of registration is just beginning, and is expected to take up to two years (with the replanting itself to take 20). The enforcement of protecting the forest, meanwhile, has been placed largely in the hands of local authorities, who “critics say are more likely to favor development over environmental concerns.” Such development includes increased farming and the development of infrastructure.
The government maintains that it will wait until after the dry season to see if this potential increase in deforestation holds true, as it continues to battle illegal timber trafficking, wildfires and the other threats to the vast Amazon rainforest.