After the COP26 climate summit, Brazil’s government pledged to end illegal forestation by 2028, the space research agency findings were announced.
Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest soared 22 percent in one year to the highest level since 2006, according to the government’s annual report, undercutting President Jair Bolsonaro’s assurances that the country is curbing illegal logging.
Brazil’s space research agency (INPE) said on Thursday that the country had recorded 13,235sq km (5,110 square miles) of deforestation in the world’s largest rainforest in its PRODES satellite data – an area nearly 17 times the size of New York City.
The official deforestation data cover the period August 2020 to July 2021.
The surging destruction comes despite Bolsonaro’s efforts to show his government is serious about protecting the Amazon, considered a critical bulwark against catastrophic climate change.
An ex-army captain of extreme right still calls for more mining and commercial agriculture in protected areas of the rainforest.
This month, the United Nations climate summit was held in Glasgow. COP26, Brazil’s government brought forward a pledge to end illegal deforestation by 2028, which would require aggressive annual cuts in destruction.
The INPE report, dated October 27, showed deforestation rising in each of the last four cycles – a first for the data series since at least 2000.
“Notice the date on the INPE note. The government went to COP26 knowing the deforestation data and hid it,” Brazilian advocacy group Climate Observatory wrote on Twitter.
In the run-up to the summit, Bolsonaro’s government had touted preliminary monthly data pointing to a slight decline for the annual period as evidence it was getting deforestation under control. Instead, the more detailed final data showed a dire picture.
“The numbers are still a challenge for us and we have to be more forceful in relation to these crimes,” Environment Minister Joaquim Pereira Leite said at a news conference on Thursday.
He stated to reporters that the data did not reflect recent stepped up enforcement against illegal forest destruction, while acknowledging that the government must be more aggressive in fighting destruction.
Mauricio Voivodic, head of environmental group WWF in Brazil, said the numbers laid bare “the real Brazil that the Bolsonaro government tries to hide with imaginary discourses and greenwashing efforts abroad”.
“What the reality shows,” he said, “is that the Bolsonaro government has accelerated the course of the Amazon’s destruction.”