Sunday, Nov 15 2009 – It’s been an eventful past 48 hours in Brazil related to the environment.

Brazilians woke up this morning to front page news that deforestation had fallen 46% in the Brazilian Amazon from August 2008 to July 2009, according to the National Institute for Space Research (referred to as INPE in Brazil), the official government agency that tracks deforestation. It’s the biggest drop in 21 years.

That is the good news, at least on the surface.
Yes, deforestation has dropped. That is not an opinion. It’s a fact according to best available satellite images. But this is the bad news: According to INPE, 7,008 square kilometers of forest were cut during this same period.
But that hasn’t stopped the Brazilian Government from trumpeting this news. President Lula’s public relations office sent out a press release, in English, to foreign journalists based in Brazil to make sure they knew about it.
I am not saying the government shouldn’t be proud and promote the news, but certainly if anyone is left with the impression that deforestation isn’t happening in Brazil anymore, that is a dead wrong impression. Anybody will tell you that.
Nevertheless, the timing of this news is also excellent for Brazil, less than a month away from the COP15 climate change conference in Denmark. Lula will make mention of the deforestation drop in his speech in Denmark. Mark my words.
Also on Friday the Brazilian government said it will reduce carbon emissions by 36-38% by 2020. This too will be a major talking point in the climate change meeting in Denmark next month. Further details will be release at that meeting. Brazil’s announcement today was the first salvo, if you will.
Here are deforestation numbers, in sqaure kilometers of forest cleared, from Brazil since 2000:

2000…..18,226 sq kilometers

2001…..18,165 sq kilometers

2002…..21,523 sq kilometers

2003…..25,396 sq kilometers

2004…..27,772 sq kilometers

2005…..19,014 sq kilometers

2006…..14,196 sq kilometers

2007…..11,633 sq kilometers

2008…..12,911 sq kilometers

2009…..7,008 sq kilometers
Source: INPE
Perspective: The country of Qatar is 11,586 sq kilometers. Slovakia is 49,035 sq kilometers. Switzerland is 41,277 sq kilometers. Rwanda is 26,338 sq kilometers.
Source: CIA World Factbook


Gabriel Elizondo has been reporting from Brazil for over three years both for television and the web.


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