Fewer fuels from the forest

Controversy surrounding biofuels and its impact on natural ecosystems finds it home in Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest.

However, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva says deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon have dropped 45.7% from August 2008 to July 2009.

According to new data based on analysis of satellite imagery by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), an estimate of 7,008 km2 of forest were cleared in Brazil during the 12-month period, the lowest rate since the government started monitoring deforestation in 1988.

‘The new deforestation data represents an extraordinary and significant reduction for Brazil. Climate change is the most challenging issue that we face today,’ Lula says.

According to the Ministry of Environment, the slowing deforestation levels are primarily a result of the Action Plan for Deforestation Control and Prevention in the Amazon, a set of cross-government policies and measures launched in 2004 to improve monitoring, strengthen enforcement, define conservation areas and foster sustainable activities in the region.

With the support of 13 government agencies, the plan played a major role in helping reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 74.8% from 2004 to 2009.

The INPE data indicates that the projected 32% increase in inspection operations over the last year was instrumental in inhibiting illegal deforestation in the Amazon.

Satellite images from INPE’s near real-time deforestation detection system enabled government inspectors to focus their efforts where deforestation is most critical and act quickly to prevent new areas from being cleared.

As a result of this surveillance, the Brazilian Environment Institute apprehended around 230,000 m3 of wood, 414 trucks and tractors, and embargoed 502,000 hectares of land linked to illegal deforestation activities in the region over the period from August 2008 to July 2009, leading the government to issue over R$ 2.8 billion reais (€1.087 billion) in fines.

Federal and state governments also worked to create around 50 million hectares in new conservation units in the Amazon from 2004 to 2008, while another 10 million hectares in indigenous lands were granted recognition in the same period.

Today, 43% of the legal Deforestation in the Amazon region is the main source of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the first National Inventory of Greenhouse Gases, up to 75% of Brazil’s emissions come from deforestation and land use change.

For this reason, tackling eforestation is at the centre of Brazil’s strategy to combat global warming. Launched in December 2008, the National Plan on Climate Change sets targets to cut deforestation rates by 80% by 2020, which would avoid 4.8 billion tons in carbon dioxide emissions during this period.

To meet these goals, the plan sets out a number of actions and programs to combat illegal logging and provide sustainable economic alternatives to the people living in the Amazon, among other measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in different sectors.

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