Amazon deforestation hits all-time record

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Area five times the size of New York City cleared in the first half of 2022

Deforestation in the world’s largest rainforest has reached a new all-time record for the first half of the year, fuelling concerns that this climate-critical habitat is being pushed to the brink of collapse.

3,988 square kilometers – an area five times the size of New York City – has been deforested in the Amazon between January and June 2022, according to official data published by the Brazilian Space Agency INPE. This is the highest deforestation rate ever recorded for this time period. It comes after the agency released data last week that revealed a record number of fire hot spots, indicative of farmers burning vegetation to clear land for crops or livestock.

“This escalating destruction is a result of the Brazilian Government’s actions that have encouraged environmental crimes as well as violence against Indigneous Peoples and Traditional Communities.” said Romulo Batista, spokesperson for Greenpeace Brazil, “Especially concerning is how the increase in deforestation is concentrated in a new front in the Southern Amazon.”

The expansion of the southern front of deforestation resulted in the State of Amazonas having the highest deforestation rate in the region for the first time. 1,236 km2 of forest was cleared in Amazonas State while Pará States and Mato Grosso States had 1,105 km2 and 845 km2 of forest cleared, respectively.

Over the last three and a half years, Bolsonaro’s government’s anti-environmental agenda has led to an increase in deforestation. In collaboration with the agribusiness lobby, Bolsonaro has advanced several radical legislative proposals that would reward land grabbing, undermine or reduce Indigenous Territories, end environmental licensing requirements – all of which threaten to spur deforestation at an even larger scale.

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The UK government is currently consulting on legislation that would ban large British businesses from using commodities linked to illegal deforestation, but these measures would do nothing to end the UK’s complicity in forest destruction that Bolsonaro deems legal.

Commenting on the figures, Greenpeace UK’s head of forests Louisa Casson said:
“Destroying the Amazon as the climate crisis rages is like taking a hammer to the air-con in a room that’s already getting hotter. With every hectare of forest that gets chopped down, we’re pushing this climate-critical ecosystem closer to the brink of collapse while also threatening the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Governments and corporations need to stop fuelling the fire and pile pressure onto Bolsonaro’s government to make it stop. The deforestation law proposed by the UK government would barely make a dent on this issue. We need a zero-tolerance approach to Amazon destruction, or we’ll all pay the price.”

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