The announcement on this Thursday afternoon of a new record high according to the Project for Monitoring Deforestation in the Amazon by Satellites (PRODES in Portuguese acronym), a tool of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) that measures the annual rate of deforestation in the Amazon, is a definitive warning of the risk that the entire country runs in face of the forest's collapse.
Between August 2020 and July 2021, 13,235 km² of forest were decimated in the Legal Amazon, the highest rate since 2006. The surveillance operations have proven to be ineffective in curbing the countless environmental crimes that occur inside the biome, from land grabbing to illegal mining, including timber trafficking and the illegal occupation of protected areas.
The Amazon is on the verge of reaching the point of no return, which will result in mass extinctions and failure of its environmental services. This is a social and economic issue. The increasing degradation of its territory has the potential to create a humanitarian crisis, as traditional communities will lose the natural resources they depend on for subsistence. Nor will the cleared forest produce the streams of moisture that fill the hydroelectric dam reservoirs, irrigate agricultural production, and ensure the supply of most of the country's population.
Brazil is unfeasible without the Amazon. It is a mistake to rely on sporadic operations that last a few months to fight devastation, in pursuit of immediate results. The fight against deforestation is daily and depends on strategic planning, based on analysis of historical trends and on the identification of the most crucial points. This was the strategy that allowed an 83% deforestation reduction in the biome between 2004 and 2012.
The country has the means to experience this success again. For this, it needs to adopt urgent and structural measures. The Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture points out actions that must be taken for a prompt drop in deforestation:
- Intensifying the fight against lawlessness, with the embargo being immediately reinstated for all deforested areas with evidence of irregularity;
- Implementation of the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR, in the Portuguese acronym) and suspend registration in public forests and in cases of intervention in legal reserves and Permanent Protection Areas, or in cases of overlapping with embargoed areas - in 2020, about one third of deforestation was registered in locations registered in the CAR overlapping with these units;
- Immediate return of territorial planning, including the demarcation of indigenous lands and quilombola territories and the allocation of 10 million hectares for the implementation of conservation units;
- Grant financing under strict socio-environmental criteria;
- Seek full transparency and strictness in vegetation clearance authorizations; and
- Suspend the land tenure regularization processes for properties with deforestation after July 2008.
During the Climate Conference (COP 26), which ended last Saturday, Brazil signed the Glasgow Leaders' Declaration, committing to stop deforestation by 2030. The country, therefore, must now turn around on its path towards the abyss, proving that its commitment will not be fake.