There was rather astonishing news from Brazil this week. A report by the National Institute for Spatial Research (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais - INPE) reveals that deforestation in the Amazon region has increased by 28% from August 2012 to July 2013. This is the third largest rate of deforestation ever registered.
The real number is surely larger if you take into consideration cloud cover -- and that the bad guys on the ground are getting smarter and cutting the forest in a greater number of ever smaller areas.
Although the Minister for the Environment is trying to put the blame on the States that make up the Amazon region, we are hearing that it’s really the Federal government that bears the major responsibility.
For years, Brazil has showcased deforestation in these meetings as the main component of its voluntary mitigation commitment/promise. But the new forest law the government pushed through Congress last year included major concessions to the agro-business lobby.
And to be clear, no other sector of the Brazilian economy has contributed to emissions reductions – ever. So greenhouse emissions are on the rise everywhere. The momentum from the very substantial reductions of forest emissions in recent years is being reversed by Brazil’s accelerated economic growth plan and the return of increased deforestation.
Although the Environment Minister emphatically denies that the government has reduced the budget to combat deforestation, the former President of INPE resigned last year out of frustration with the lack of resources and ever-increasing restrictions on investments. Monitoring of the Amazon region will continue, he said, but it will not improve: “The system is full of holes.”
The head of the Brazilian delegation made two important points in a press briefing the other day. First, he said that Brazil would honor its commitment to reduce deforestation because that commitment has now become law. Second, Brazil insists that those developed countries historically responsible for creating the climate problem must take the lead.
So considering all this, here are some questions for Brazil:
• If reduced emissions from deforestation is now a law, who is to be accountable?
• What does Brazil intend to do to reverse this dangerous trend?• Given these developments, what leverage does Brazil have to bargain for more ambition in reducing the mitigation gap in the 2015 agreement and post 2020 implementation?
The world needs Brazil to be a protagonist in the battle against Climate Change.
But it seems that Brazil is stepping back further and further from the front lines and into the muddy post-logging trenches.