Rise in deforestation amid Brazil's efforts to attract donors for Amazon fund

An aerial view shows deforestation near a forest on the border between Amazonia and Cerrado in Nova Xavantina, Brazil. Reuters/Amanda Perobelli/File Photo

Sao Paulo: Official data has shown that deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest rose 14% in March from the previous year, highlighting the continued challenges for the new leftist government.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took office on Jan. 1, pledging to end deforestation after years of surging deforestation under his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, who slashed environmental protection efforts in the Amazon.

"This rise in numbers reveals that the Amazon still suffers from a huge lack of governance and that the new government needs to act urgently to rebuild its capacity for repression of environmental crime, which had been totally destroyed by the last government," said Marcio Astrini, head of local environmental group Climate Observatory.

Space research agency Inpe's data showed 356 square km (137 square miles) were cleared in Brazil’s Amazon just last month. The latest figures present a mixed picture on the government’s anti-deforestation thus far with the destruction for January to March falling to 845 square kilometers (326 square miles), a decrease of 11% from the prior year.

Brazil officially measures annual deforestation from August to July, to limit the influence of cloud cover obscuring the destruction of satellite images during the rainy months. For the first eight months of that period, August 2022 to March 2023, deforestation is up 39% year on year.

"There are only four months left to close the final deforestation numbers. This means that a decrease in deforestation in the Amazon final rates in 2023 is unlikely. In fact, it has greater chances of increasing," Astrini says. At the end of February in Brasilia, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said that the world cannot meet its climate goal to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degree Celsius unless it protects the Amazon rainforest.

Washington announced at the beginning of the year it intended to contribute to Brazil's Amazon Fund, which supports conservation projects in the jungle region. Norway also pledged its support last month for Brazil's efforts to attract additional donor countries for the Amazon Fund.

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