As scientists warn Brazil’s rainforest is nearing a point of irreversible decline, Lula makes ambitious deforestation pledge for world’s most biodiverse biome
Brazil’s president wants to cut half of Brazil’s rainforest by 2020
He has signed law to allow commercial logging in the world’s most pristine biome
Cape Town is preparing to host the biggest international summit on global deforestation today
The government has vowed to make Brazil the new world leader in the fight against climate change if it can reach a target of cutting Brazil’s rainforest by 50 per cent by 2020.
The world’s third largest economy, with the world’s largest carbon reserves and the third largest rainforest – but with an unsustainable and unspoilt tropical environment – has set ambitious goals to reduce deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.
President Lula has vowed to turn Brazil into the new leader of the world’s efforts in the fight against climate change
The Brazilian president’s initiative to save the rainforest has so far been met with scepticism. Scientists and environmentalists fear the plan could lead to further deforestation for the sake of economic development, while critics have accused the plan of being a cynical ploy to win votes ahead of next year’s presidential election.
The issue emerged to prominence in April when an official report for the UN Development Programme (UNDP) accused Brazil of going beyond its agreed deforestation targets, and said climate change had increased the threat and scale of illegal deforestation.
It said recent figures showed that the rate of deforestation in Brazil had increased by 13 per cent in the 12 months ending in March, compared with the same period last year, despite the president’s campaign to drive the rate down.
Brazilian Prime Minister Jose Serra (right) talks with President Lula da Silva in Brasilia in June last year
The UNDP report said some areas were still classified as intact rainforest, but it also said the government was continuing to expand illegal logging in protected forests, in particular in the Cerrado, or savannah, which is classified as the third largest forest in the world.
It also called on Brazil to increase its conservation aid funding to forest agencies.
But the UNDP report was criticised by a wide range of environmental organisations and scientists, who say it unfairly singled out a small number of forest areas that do not pose any genuine threat.
The president has set a goal of cutting half of Brazil’s rainforest by 2020. In January he announced that the World Bank