Brazil faces accusations of “greenwashing” following deforestation in the Amazon | World news

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Despite recent headline-grabbing promises to protect its rainforest before the end of the decade, Brazil has again seen an increase in deforestation.

The latest figures released by the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which tracks the state of the Amazon rainforest, showed a 22% increase over last year. Some 13,235 square kilometers (5,110 square miles) disappeared between August 1, 2020 and July 31, 2021. The new statistics were dated October 27 – before the start of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow – prompting environmental organizations like Greenpeace to accuse the Brazilian government of trying to clean up its image during crucial talks.

“There is no amount of greenwashing that can hide this [President Jair] Bolsonaro made to destroy the Amazon. If anyone believed the empty promises of Bolsonaro’s government at the COP, the truth can be found in these numbers. Unlike Bolsonaro, satellites don’t lie, ”the group said in a press release.

A commitment to save the rainforest?

Brazil, along with more than 100 other world leaders, pledged at the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. Its Amazon rainforest accounts for about a third of all forests tropical areas remaining on Earth.

This huge biologically rich region is essential to help absorb the CO2 that warms the planet; forests absorb about 30% of global carbon dioxide emissions, according to the World Resources Institute.

But despite a significant drop in deforestation from a maximum of 27,700 square kilometers (10,700 square miles) in 2004 to just over 4,500 square kilometers in 2012, illegal logging, agricultural expansion and Wildfires have slowly pushed that rate up over the past few decades – especially since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January 2019.

“The environmental record of Brazil’s federal government is appalling, and there is ample evidence to show that it has simultaneously encouraged deforestation while reducing investments in environmental law enforcement,” said Jos Barlow, a UK science professor. conservation based at Lancaster University, which has worked in Brazil since 1998.

“Without a radical change in their approach, the commitments made at the COP should be seen in this context – at least until the elections in a year,” he told DW.

Amazon has “already changed beyond recognition”

The Brazilian rainforest plays a key role in mitigating climate change, but Bolsonaro is primarily concerned with its economic opportunities. Under his rule, environmental authorities were dismantled and land protections relaxed. This has encouraged loggers, farmers and cattle ranchers to further develop the Amazon region, of which about 60 percent – roughly the size of Western Europe – is in Brazil.

“The Amazon is at the center of the global debate on climate change,” Andre Guimaraes, executive director of a Brazilian think tank, Amazon Environmental Research Institute, said in an email to DW. “It stores carbon, and it’s a source of rain for agriculture and energy. But nothing seems to echo [with] the federal administration, which has chosen the wrong, costly and ineffective means to combat deforestation. “

Some observers believe parts of the world’s largest remaining rainforest could approach a tipping point, beyond which its ecosystem could collapse and significantly weaken any efforts to limit global warming.

Barlow, co-founder of the Sustainable Amazon Network research group, noticed significant changes in the Santarem region, in the eastern part of the Amazon. Since the 1980s, he said the region has seen a 34% decrease in precipitation during the dry season, a temperature increase of over 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and an increase in huge fires in forest that wiped out over a million people. hectares of forest.

“Forests and landscapes have already changed beyond recognition over the past 20 years, and the pace of change is accelerating. So yes, it’s very close to a tipping point. But I like to hope that we can always avoid it, even in these areas, ”he told DW.

EU takes action to limit deforestation

Barlow was encouraged by the actions of state-level governments in the Amazon region, some of which have made their own commitments to stop deforestation. “There is also growing international pressure, with Europe and the UK pledging to import commodities without deforestation,” he said.

On Wednesday, the European Commission presented a proposal to restrict imports of goods linked to deforestation, including soybeans, palm oil, beef, timber and products made from them. Brazil, which manufactures many of these products, would be particularly affected.

“These initiatives show that the European Union takes the green transition seriously,” said Frans Timmermans, vice-president of the European Commission in charge of the EU’s Green Deal, adding that it would help “promote sustainable consumption” .

“This is an important step in the right direction, and it gives companies a strong incentive to adapt and self-regulate,” said Barlow. But, he added, this was not enough: implementation would be a “huge challenge”, as would compliance. And, he pointed out, much of Brazilian beef is exported to countries outside the EU, like Egypt and, more generally, the Middle East. “We need all countries to accept this. “

The measure, which could still undergo changes before entering into force, will still have to be approved by EU member states and the European Parliament.

Barlow also said measures to limit forest degradation and support the livelihoods of local Amazonians were crucial, a position echoed by Giulia Bondi, a European forest activist with transparency group Global Witness.

“The European Parliament and EU Member States must now strengthen this law to defend the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, prevent EU financiers from funding and profiting from global deforestation and associated abuses,” and to include commodities like rubber and corn, ”she said in a statement.


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