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Amazon Deforestation on the Rise (Again)

06 December 2016 | Greenpeace International News Release

São Paulo – Amazon deforestation increased 29 percent from the numbers released for last year, according to data released by the Brazilian government yesterday. Brazil is losing control over the destruction of its forests because of poor policy decisions and may now have difficulty reaching its climate agreement targets.

Data from the Deforestation Monitoring Program for the Legal Amazon (Prodes) indicated that 7989 km² of forest in the Amazon was destroyed between August 2015 and July 2016. This is the second consecutive year deforestation in the world’s largest tropical forest has increased, a direct result of the government’s lack of ambition in dealing with the challenge of curbing forest loss. It is the first time in 12 years there have been increases in deforestation two years in a row.

“The increase in deforestation rates can be linked to signals from Brazil’s government that it will tolerate the destruction of the Amazon. In recent years, public environmental protection policies in Brazil have weakened. For example, very few protected areas and Indigenous Lands have been created, and a new Forest Code was approved in 2012 that gives amnesty to those who committed illegal deforestation,” said Cristiane Mazzetti, Greenpeace Amazon Campaigner.

The announcement came on the same day that 80 Munduruku Indigenous People publically called for the official recognition of their land in Brasília. “The official recognition of Munduruku land and other Indigenous Lands is crucial to guarantee the survival of Indigenous Peoples as well as the protection of the forest,” said Mazzetti.

Deforestation is responsible for approximately 40 percent of Brazil’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. With forest loss on the rise again, the country could find it difficult to fulfil its commitments under the Paris Agreement, recently signed and ratified by Brazil.

It is estimated that the deforestation of 7989km² has released the equivalent of 586 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere—the same amount as eight years of emissions from all of the cars in Brazil.

The worst offenders in forest destruction are the states of Pará and Mato Grosso. “The illegal harvesting of timber, expansion of agribusiness and the conversion of forests into pasture are a few of the major drivers of deforestation. Building large infrastructure projects, like hydroelectric plants, also stimulates land grabbing and speculation, leading to even more deforestation,” Mazzetti explains.

Greenpeace is calling on Brazil’s government to commit to Zero Deforestation immediately and to adopt effective measures like strengthening command and control of the Amazon and creating new protected areas and Indigenous Lands. The government must take these important steps to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and begin to contain deforestation once again.


Notes for editors:

[1] Prodes, operated by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) of Brazil, conducts satellite monitoring of deforestation by clear-cutting on the Legal Amazon and has compiled the annual rates of deforestation for the region since 1988. These are used by the Brazilian government to determine public policy.

[2] Between 2005 and 2012 there was a reduction in the rates of deforestation in the Amazon. Initiatives like the Soy Moratorium and the Public Commitment on Amazon Cattle, industry agreements designed to promote zero deforestation in the production chains of this biome, were key for those achievements. However, signals sent by the government that it will tolerate the destruction, marked mainly for the approval of the new Forest Code in 2012, made the rates stop falling and begin to increase.

Also, in recent years, there has been a weakening of the command and control measures for deforestation in Brazil. The creation of new Protected Areas and Indigenous Lands—effective tools in the fight against deforestation—has practically come to a halt, and the size of some protected areas has been reduced. In 2014, Brazil elected its most conservative and ruralist (a term used to describe politicians who serve the interests of agribusiness) congress ever, which has pushed an agenda to undermine protection mechanisms for the forests and their people. The following year the federal government announced an absurd commitment to end illegal deforestation in the Amazon by 2030—which, in practice, means tolerating illegal deforestation for another 14 years with no timeframe for ending the destruction of other natural ecosystems in Brazil.


Vania Alves, Communication Officer, Greenpeace Brazil, +55 21 97178 6574,

Greenpeace International Press Desk, +31 (0)20 718 2470 (available 24 hours),

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