Brazil fails to implement deforestation plan - Amazon destruction jumps
Rhett A. Butler,
March 6, 2008

Faced with a spike in forest clearing due to high commodity prices, the Brazilian government has failed to enact reforms designed to slow deforestation in the Amazon rainforest says Greenpeace, an environmental group.

Analyzing Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's 2004 forest protection 'Action Plan', Greenpeace found that 60 percent of the 162 'activities' under 32 strategic directions in the plan have not been enacted. Less than a third of the strategic directions were completed by the end of last year.

Greenpeace blames the shortfall for lack of political will and coordination by the President's Chief of Staff of the thirteen Government Ministries involved in implementing the plan. It also notes that the action plan doesn't set deforestation reduction targets.

After falling for three consecutive years, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon jumped during the final five months of 2007. While the Brazilian government had previously taken credit for the decline in deforestation, the recent rise in logging confirms suspicions that commodity prices — not policy measures — are the primary determinant of forest clearing. Grain and cattle prices have been surging in recent months, boosting development pressure on the Amazon — increasingly the agricultural heartland of Brazil.

"Poor coordination and a serious failure to implement key components of the Plan have left the Amazon vulnerable to the vagaries of the commodities market," said Marcelo Marquesini, a Greenpeace Amazon campaigner and the main author of the report, titled "The Lion wakes up."

Greenpeace says that while the plan has had some notable successes, including the development of the Real Time Deforestation Detection System (DETER) by the Brazilian Institute of Space Research (INPE) and the distribution of satellite images to civil society organizations, the Brazilian government needs to commit to implementation.

Amazon forest loss dropped from Aug 2004-Jul 2007, before nearly doubling from Aug 2007 until the end of the year.
"The Government's initiative to fight deforestation has many virtues, but it is crucial to establish concrete, clear and measurable targets for the annual reduction of the loss of forest cover. This would allow the government - at local, state and federal levels - to plan ahead in an integrated manner, and to evaluate its own performance, making timely adjustments," said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon campaign coordinator. "In any case, if efforts to contain deforestation are to be effective, it is necessary, above all, to consolidate in a definitive way the provisional act on the Forest Code, which establishes that no more than 80% of the Amazon's farming area can be cleared. It may seem obvious and redundant, but if the rules defining what should be used and what should be preserved remain in the form of a provisional act, no decisive victories will be achieved in the fight against deforestation."

The Lion wakes up


Half the Amazon rainforest will be lost within 20 years
(2/27/2008) More than half the Amazon rainforest will be damaged or destroyed within 20 years if deforestation, forest fires, and climate trends continue apace, warns a study published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Reviewing recent trends in economic, ecological and climatic processes in Amazonia, Daniel Nepstad and colleagues forecast that 55 percent of Amazon forests will be "cleared, logged, damaged by drought, or burned" in the next 20 years. The damage will release 15-26 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, adding to a feedback cycle that will worsen both warming and forest degradation in the region. While the projections are bleak, the authors are hopeful that emerging trends could reduce the likelihood of a near-term die-back. These include the growing concern in commodity markets on the environmental performance of ranchers and farmers; greater investment in fire control mechanisms among owners of fire-sensitive investments; emergence of a carbon market for forest-based offsets; and the establishment of protected areas in regions where development is fast-expanding.

How much would it cost to end Amazon deforestation?
(1/27/2008) With Brazil last week announcing a significant jump in Amazon deforestation during the second half of 2007, the question emerges, how much would it cost to end the destruction of Earth's largest rainforest?

7000 sq km of Amazon rainforest destroyed in late 2007 says Greenpeace
(1/25/2008) Brazilian government figures will likely show that more than 7,000 square kilometers of Amazon rainforest were destroyed between August and the end December 2007, said environmental group Greenpeace.

Brazil cracks down on illegal soy, cattle production in the Amazon
(12/24/2007) The Brazilian government launched a new initiative to slow deforestation in the Amazon, setting the stage for the country to potentially earn billions from carbon trading schemes set in motion two weeks ago at the U.N. climate meeting in Bali. Last Friday Brazil announced a ban on the sale of farm products from illegally deforested areas in the Amazon in an attempt to slow deforestation and forest fires that have increased in recent months due to surging commodity prices fueled by American corn ethanol subsidies and rising demand from China and other emerging markets for livestock feed. The presidential decree imposes fines and threatens credit access to landowners for buying or trading soy, beef, and other products produced on illegally deforested lands.

2007 Amazon fires among worst ever
(10/22/2007) By some measures, forest fires in the Amazon are at near-record levels, according to analysis Brazilian satellite data by A surge in soy and cattle prices may be contributing to an increase in deforestation since last year. Last year environmentalists and the Brazilian government heralded a sharp fall in deforestation rates, the third consecutive annual decline after a peak in 2004. Forest loss in the 2006-2007 season was the lowest since record-keeping began in the late in 1970s. While the government tried to claim credit for the drop, analysts at the time said that commodity prices were a more likely driver of slow down: both cattle and soy prices had declined significantly over the previous months.

Influence of soy prices (CPI-adjusted, 12-month moving average) on deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Deforestation in the states of Mato Grosso and Para has shown a particularly strong correlation to soy prices in recent years. All figures in hectares (2.47 acres).

Influence of soybean prices (CPI-adjusted) on deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. All figures in hectares (2.47 acres).

The recent surge in soy and cattle prices could be driving an increase in forest fires. Annual deforestation figures for the 2007-2008 year will not be released until August of 2008, though new data for the 2007 burning season should be available by the end of the year.
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