Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon dropped nearly 46% from August 2008 to July 2009 — the biggest annual decline in two decades, according to the National Institute for Space Research. They took satellite images that show that some 7,008 square kilometers of trees were cut down in the year to July, almost half of the previous year’s figure and a quarter of the 2004 level (27,772 square kilometers).
In fact, this is the lowest annual figure since 1988 when Brazil started measuring annual deforestation, and the figures lend credibility to Brazil’s promise that it will go to the Copenhagen talks next month and offer voluntary reductions of between 38% and 42% in its carbon dioxide emissions. Since Amazon deforestation causes 75% of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the National Inventory of Greenhouse Gases, this is a significant step towards this goal. It has been said that tropical deforestation accounts for more carbon dioxide emissions than the emissions from cars.
“The new deforestation data represents an extraordinary and significant reduction for Brazil,” President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said. The massive reduction in deforestation is a result, an official said, of a 2004 strategy to get all parts of the government involved in the fight against illegal deforestation activities. The government credited its aggressive monitoring and enforcement measures for the drop, as well as its promotion of sustainable activities in the Amazon region, an area in northern Brazil the size of the U.S. west of the Mississippi River. Under the plan, real time satellite monitoring was improved and enforcement was bolstered, allowing forest rangers to go directly to areas where logging or burning was taking place. The government has also issued $1.6 billion in fines.
Another reason is the drop of world prices for beef and soy. But consumer awareness has also played a major part. Campaigns naming and shaming companies who take beef and leather products from Amazonian-reared cattle spooked firms like Tesco, Clark’s, Nike and Adidas into signing a moratorium on certain products earlier this year. That proves it makes sense that consumers demand companies to take responsibility regarding environmental issues.
While this is good news we should stay aware that the Amazon is not the only area in jeopardy and continue to protect the tropical forests.