Brasília: Preliminary statistics issued by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) have revealed that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon plummeted by 66 per cent last month compared to July 2022, and is now at its lowest rate in six years.
Nearly 500 square kilometres (193 square miles) of rainforest were cleared in July, a significant fall from the 1,487 square kilometres (574 square miles) cleared last July.
Since Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's inauguration as president in January, there has been a significant decrease in deforestation. According to CNN, Lula has committed to halting deforestation, which had accelerated under his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro.
Brazil’s environment minister, Marina Silva, said government policies, including increasing surveillance and fining perpetrators, have played a big role in bringing rates of deforestation down.
“It is the end of the expectation of impunity,” Silva told journalists at a news conference announcing the results, CNN reported.
“When you see the increase in operations … this creates a virtuous circle of no longer expecting impunity," Silva added.
The preliminary data should be confirmed in the next few days and comes as the countries which contain parts of the Amazon prepare to meet on August 8 and 9 in the Brazilian city of Belem, for a summit aimed at increasing the protection of the rainforest.
The reduced rate of deforestation is positive news at a time when the Amazon remains critically vulnerable, CNN reported.
Mikaela Weisse, the director of the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Global Forest Watch, said the data is “incredibly important and promising".
Some scientists have cautioned that the rainforest may be approaching a tipping point that may change it into a grassland savannah. This would have far-reaching consequences for biodiversity as well as the climate issue, as Amazon stores massive amounts of carbon and has a substantial impact on global weather patterns, according to CNN.
If the Amazon is not protected, it will also be much harder to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, said Weisse. Breaching this threshold risks triggering major tipping points, including the death of coral reefs and the melting of polar ice sheets, CNN reported.
Continued effort is needed to keep pushing deforestation rates down, Weisse said. “You can’t just reduce the rates and expect that it’s going to stay that way.”
In 2022 an area of global tropical forest the size of Switzerland was lost as forest destruction rose by 10 per cent compared to the previous year, according to a recent report from Global Forest Watch.