Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced plans for Brazil to eliminate deforestation in the Amazon by 2030 as part of an international pledge to protect the environment.
Lula and his Environment Minister, Marina Silva, unveiled the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Amazon on Monday, touting it as the latest step in their aggressive platform to combat climate change.
“Brazil has resumed its leading role in tackling climate change, after four years in which the environment was treated as an obstacle to the immediate profit of a privileged minority,” Lula said in a post on Twitter, alluding to the policies of his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro.
“But rich countries also need to do their part. They were the ones who, over centuries, devastated forests the most.”
The announcement comes as Brazilian media agencies report the emptying of the Ministry of the Environment, led by Marina Silva. The portfolio had attributions withdrawn by the Brazilian National Congress in the last week without major resistance from the Planalto.
Last month, the European Union introduced a new law banning the sale of coffee, cocoa, cattle, palm oil, soy, and wood connected to deforestation.
And earlier this year, investigative journalists with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in collaboration with Deforestation Inc., scrutinized more than 2000 incidents involving known and unknown deforestation incidents – with Brazilian forest products amongst the highest risk profile for deforestation.
The plan to tackle deforestation
The plan stipulates increased use of satellite imagery to identify illegal logging, ranching, and mining operations. And government databases containing financial intelligence, for example, will be deployed to track money flow from unsanctioned operations in the Amazon rainforest.
In April 2023, Wood Central reported on Brazil’s empty commitments to reforestation and regeneration.
Among the main bottlenecks for restoration include greater transparency and standardisation in reporting, delays in reforestation and restoration projects, and laws such as Brazil’s Atlantic Forest Law.
Under the law, introduced in 2006, recovered areas over 10 years old become protected and may not be forested again.
“Rural producers sometimes leave land abandoned for five or six years, and when a forest starts to form there, they clear it again, even if they are not going to use the area for any economic purposes, just to avoid falling into permanent protection status,” Marcus Rosa, Technical Coordinator of MapBiomas said.
Under the plan, a system will also be developed to certify the origins of wood and agricultural products that might otherwise come from vulnerable or exploited ecosystems.
In addition to its deforestation efforts, the plan proposes to standardize land titles and create incentives for sustainable agriculture and other “green” activities, which include reforestation.
“Loggers in the country need to be told that, if they want to cut down trees, plant them,” Lula said of the proposed measures.
He also warned that there would be no excuse for felling old-growth forests. “In the land of the Brazilian people, we will be very tough in complying with the law.”
The challenges ahead
Lula’s policies mark a departure from Bolsonaro’s tenure in office, from 2019 to 2022, which coincided with record deforestation in Brazil.
Bolsonaro had advocated for greater development in the Amazon region, creating a construction boom for the Brazilian economy and turning a blind eye, according to critics, to illegal operations.
In October, right-wing Bolsonaro was narrowly defeated in a run-off election against the left-leaning Lula, who campaigned to restore the Amazon. Parts of the forest, once a major carbon-trapping sink, now release more carbon than they capture due to deforestation and fires.
Nevertheless, in November, Lula appeared at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 to position Brazil as a leader in the fight against climate change.
“There is no climate security for the world without a protected Amazon,” he told the conference.
Lula faces an uphill battle. Deforestation dropped by 61 percent in January, his first month in office, only to hit a record high in February.
And Brazil’s opposition-led Congress recently delivered a setback to Lula, voting last week to scale down ministries dedicated to environmental protection and Indigenous peoples.
A solemn anniversary
Monday’s deforestation announcement arrives one year after British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were murdered while reporting on the Amazon.
In announcing Monday’s plan, Lula paid tribute to the two men, who had worked to bring attention to deforestation and illegal operations on Indigenous land.
“A year ago, the brutal murder that made them victims shocked the world, which came to see the Amazon as a land without law and on the verge of destruction,” Lula wrote on Twitter. “Today, the world has returned to look at Brazil with hope.”
The announcement lays the groundwork for Brazil to follow through with a 2021 agreement, forged at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, to halt deforestation by 2030.
The 2021 agreement follows commitments made in 2015, as part of the Paris Agreement, and in 2020 as part of the Bonn Challenge to restore 12 million hectares of forest for ‘multi-use’ 22 million hectares of all forests by 2030.
An estimated 145 countries joined in the Glasgow declaration, which would cover approximately 85 percent of the world’s forests and woodlands. Among them, 12 governments pledged $12 billion to protect and restore forest ecosystems, with funds set aside for Indigenous populations.