Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon Falls to a Five-Year Low

Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil is lower than it has been in the past five years, and has decreased by 22.3 percent since 2022. This shift is largely due to the new president of Brazil, Dr. Lula, whose administration is dedicated to rebuild forest protection policies and fight against the climate crisis. While a historic drought has caused major wildfires in the region which may jeopardize some of the progress, overall deforestation is slowing in the Amazon.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon Falls to a Five-Year Low
The Amazon rainforest in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory, Brazil. Credit...Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon Falls to a Five-Year Low

Tree loss was down 20 percent from the previous year, the environment minister announced.

Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil fell to a five-year low, the country’s National Institute of Space Research announced on Thursday, a sign that Brazil, which has the biggest share of tropical forest in the world, was making progress on its pledge to halt all deforestation by the end of the decade.

The institute reported that 3,500 square miles had been clear-cut between August 2022 and July 2023, a 22.3 percent decrease from the same period a year earlier. The decline in tree loss is estimated to have reduced the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 7.5 percent. Brazil is the world’s sixth largest emitter, by some measures.

“Behind this was a political decision,” Marina Silva, Brazil’s environment minister, said on Thursday at a news conference. “We are changing the image of the country when we change this reality.”

The announcement was an encouraging sign that local policies could change the trajectory of global forest loss. The world lost 10.2 million acres of primary forest in 2022, a 10 percent increase from the year before, according to an annual survey by the World Resources Institute. Brazil accounted for more than 40 percent of the destruction recorded.

Two-thirds of the deforestation happened before Mr. Lula came into office, the government said. Under his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, deforestation rates climbed to a 15-year high as Mr. Bolsonaro’s administration loosened environmental protection policies.

Environmental fines in the Amazon more than doubled under Mr. Lula, the government reported, as his administration sought to rebuild the forest’s protection policies. Almost all of the deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is illegal, mostly the result of land grabbing and farmers’ replacing trees with pasture.

Brazil isn’t the only country making progress in the region. Colombia, which has a tenth of the Amazon rainforest, announced on Tuesday that deforestation rates there had fallen by 70 percentin the first nine months of the year.

But El Niño, the climate pattern that has helped cause a historic drought fueling major wildfires in the region, may jeopardize some of the progress in the region, the environment ministers of both countries acknowledged.

More than a third of fires raging in the Brazilian Amazon are destroying old-growth forests, Ms. Silva said. “It’s a demonstration that the climate change is already impacting the forest,” she added.

Manuela Andreoni

Reporting from Rio de Janeiro.