Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon fell by 33.6% in the first six months of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s term compared with the same period in 2022, the government says.
Its suggests the rainforest shrank by 2,649 sq km this January-June, down from 3,988 sq km in those six months last year under President Bolsonaro.
The released government satellite data has not been independently verified.
Lula has pledged to end deforestation, or forest clearance, by 2030.
But he faces a huge challenge to achieve this target, as the area of rainforest still reported to be lost under his rule is more than three times the size of New York City.
The past few years have seen an alarming rise in deforestation.
The Amazon rainforest is a crucial buffer in the global fight against climate change.
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The new satellite data was presented by Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research (Inpe) on Thursday.
“We have reached a steady downward trend in deforestation of the Amazon,” Environment Minister Marina Silva told reporters.
Inpe singled out June as the month that saw a record 41% drop in forest clearance compared with the same period last year.
Lula, who took office in January, has vowed to reverse policies of his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, who promoted mining in indigenous lands in the Amazon.
Indigenous leaders welcomed the move – but stressed that more areas needed protection.
And while deforestation was reported to have fallen, fires were up in the statistics.
In June alone, satellite monitoring detected 3,075 fires in the Amazon – the highest number since 2007.
Many of the blazes – releasing vast amounts of carbon emissions – have been linked to the clearing of previously deforested areas.
Lula, who previously served as Brazil’s president in 2003-2010, has also been pushing for the world’s richest nations to pay for various initiatives aimed at saving the rainforest.
In April, research by Global Forest Watch monitoring network showed that an area of tropical forest the size of Switzerland was lost last year around the world as tree clearance surged.
It said that some 11 football pitches of forest were lost every minute in 2022, with Brazil dominating the destruction.
It suggested that a political pledge to end deforestation made by world leaders at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in 2021 was well off track.
The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world, and 60% of it is in Brazil.
Due to the large number of trees growing there, it is often called “the lungs of the planet” on account of how the trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.