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Greenpeace demands urgent action to tackle Amazon deforestation crisis


Amazon, International — As the Brazilian government sits in an emergency meeting called in response to the release of new figures revealing a doubling of deforestation in the Amazon last year, Greenpeace called on President Lula to make urgent structural reforms to protect the Amazon from increased demand for agricultural products such as soya and beef.
The figures released by the Brazilian authorities, show deforestation rates of 3235km2 from August-December 2007. However, as the tracking system used only shows preliminary deforestation rates, the real figure is likely to be much higher. Greenpeace estimates that when more detailed satellite images are analysed they will show that some 7,000 km2 of rainforest has been destroyed (1).

“The Brazilian government can not claim to be caught by surprise. Greenpeace warned throughout last year that increases in the price of soya and beef meant that unless urgent counter measures were taken deforestation would rise” said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon coordinator.

“If Lula is serious about Brazil being a world leader in the fight against deforestation then he must implement long-term solid measures to ensure the Amazon cannot fall victim to deforestation as a result of rising commodity prices.”

Greenpeace is concerned that without effective government action, deforestation rates will continue to rise in 2008. The situation is even more fragile because this year is an electoral year and authorities are likely to turn a blind eye to forest clearance to secure votes.

Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change, second only to the energy sector it is responsible for about 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Brazil is the world’s 4th largest contributer to global warming, mainly due to deforestation and land clearing processes in the Amazon. Tackling deforestation is essential in the fight against dangerous climate change.

In July 2006, multinational soya traders agreed to a two year moratorium on buying soya from newly deforested land in the Amazon (3). Greenpeace demands that the soya industry not only complies with the moratorium, but deepen and extend their commitment to it.

Notes to Editor

1. Effective measures to tackle deforestation include mapping rural properties and ownership; curbing illegal occupation of public land; harsh penalties for illegal deforestation; driving development to areas away from the rainforest; increasing support to sustainable activities.

2. The preliminary figures come from a satellite system (DETER) which is used to track where deforestation is happening, rather than measure deforestation rates. Past experience shows that DETER figures are usually 40% of the actual deforestation rate as shown by the more detailed Satellite PRODES system.

3. The moratorium was announced by the soya industry on July 24th 2006, after Greenpeace and local communities from Santarém, Brazil exposed the threat of soya to the Amazon.

4. In August 2007, Lula boasted to the world that Brazil had cut deforestation by 50 per cent in the previous two years. Days later Greenpeace exposed that the Brazilian Government’s Agency for Land Reform (INCRA) was allowing further destruction of large areas of rainforest by assigning them as ‘land settlements’


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