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Increase in deforestation and proposals to reduce Conservation Units compromise Brazilian targets for the Paris Agreement

The Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture expresses its concern about the alarming increase in the deforestation rate, as well as its disagreement with recent legislative proposals that can reduce the protected areas in Conservation Units in the Amazon. The increase in forest deforestation places Brazil in the opposite direction of its goals for the National Policy on Climate Change for 2020 and compromises the Brazilian target set during the Paris Agreement.

In this moment when the country seeks to restore its confidence by retaking responsible economic management with focus on achieving its goals, it is crucial to return to the climate agenda objectives, especially in what regards to the drastic reduction of deforestation.

Data from the INPE (National Institute for Space Research) show that deforestation increased by 60% between 2014 and 2016. In 2016, the rate of deforestation reached almost 8,000 km2, more than twice the rate needed for the country to achieve the 80% reduction target for deforestation in 2020 set by the National Policy on Climate Change.

A study by the Environmental Research Institute of the Amazon (IPAM) shows that deforestation has increased within Conservation Units, as well as in public areas not yet destined to a specific use and in rural properties that are part of the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR). More than half of all deforested areas detected by INPE are part of the CAR.

This scenario is incompatible with Brazil’s recent past: between 2005 and 2012 the country was one of the countries that most contributed to climate change mitigation. The positive result of that period was achieved, among other measures, by the substantial decrease in the Amazon deforestation, a consequence of successful strategies such as continuous monitoring, repression of illegal exploitation and the creation of Conservation Units. The deforestation reached 27,000 km2 in 2004, but decreased to 4,500 km2 in 2012, during a period of extraordinary progress in the Brazilian agricultural production. The recent reversal of this trend, with a sharp increase in deforestation, coincides with the decrease in the frequency of DETER data releases, the reduction of command and control actions, the interruption of the creation of new Conservation Units as well as the proposals to reduce old protected areas, low investment and lack of incentives for the conservation of forests and sustainable activities. In addition, based on preliminary data from the federal government, this upward trend should continue or even worsen in the coming years, jeopardizing the Brazilian climate commitment in the Paris Agreement — one of its pillars is to achieve zero illegal deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon until 2030.

Moreover, in recent months, congressmen and public agents have proposed the reduction of protected areas of the Conservation Units in the Amazon in about one million hectares. This is opposite to everything that the country has been defending nationally and internationally. The Brazilian Coalition understands that such actions open the way to greater forest destruction and put at risk traditional populations and economic activities directly or indirectly linked to the forest, such as agriculture, which is responsible for almost 25% of Brazil’s GDP.

It is crucial to resume the integrated agenda for the control of deforestation urgently, with actions that include (i) to resume the monthly disclosure of DETER deforestation alerts, (ii) to suspend the land regularization and credit processes and to make sure the parts involved in illegal deforestation will be held responsible, (iii) to implement a task force to promote the conservation and sustainable use of 60 million hectares of public forests not yet destined to a specific use and (iv) to suspend immediately all plans to reduce the Conservation Units.

The search for greater balance between forest conservation and the efficient use of our soils for agricultural production is one of the biggest challenges for Brazil in the coming years. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, a country that produces 7% — aiming to reach 10% in five years — of the world’s food must be responsible and committed to the proper use of its natural resources.

Brazil is a central piece in the global efforts to face the challenges of climate change. The country has the technology necessary to increase its productivity without relying on deforestation. It also has the aspiration to be a more fair and responsible country towards its citizens and the planet. For this, it needs to develop, expand its economy, strengthen its agricultural production and, at the same time, protect its natural assets.

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