Credit: Pexels / Julian Peter

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased by almost 22 percent in the past year, hitting a 15-year-high. In the past 12 months, more than 13,000 square kilometers of the Amazon were devastated in the South American country, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

Inpe’s satellite data reflected that between 1 August 2020 and 31 July 2021, 13,235 square kilometers were lost, marking an increase in deforestation, the third consecutive since Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro was elected.

Brazil’s role in climate change mitigation is considered crucial. After numerous international pressures, at COP26, the Brazilian government presented a commitment in which they assured the world they would help put an end to illegal deforestation of the Amazon rainforest by 2028. 

They claim to have intensified their actions to combat illegal deforestation with an increased presence of troops on the ground in the last 90 days, focusing on the 23 municipalities with the highest incidence of environmental crimes. Deforestation is particularly attributed to illegal mining and cattle-ranching activities.

“The result is the fruit of a persistent, planned and continuous effort to destroy environmental protection policies under the Bolsonaro government,” Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Observatório do Clima network, which brings together the main environmental NGOs and institutes operating in Brazil, including WWF and Greenpeace, said in a statement.

Brazil’s Minister of the Environment, Joaquim Leite, has described the permanent increases in deforestation rates in the Amazon as “unacceptable” and guarantees that the government will be more “forceful” in the face of illegal logging.

Brazil is home to most of the world’s largest rainforest. Trees in the Amazon absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide that would otherwise warm the planet.