Deforestation in Brazil has already fallen by over 60% in the first month of President Lula’s administration, according to satellite data.

During his first presidency from 2004-2010, president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made preserving natural resources a priority, and he stopped over 75% of deforestation in Brazil. But after he was removed from office, progress on environmental policies ceased. And in 2018, when Jair Bolsonaro took office, funding was cut to many of the environmental protection agencies and projects that Lula had put in place, and deforestation began to accelerate again. By 2021, it was nearly double what it had been in 2010. Bolsonaro was even apparently encouraging illegal logging in the Amazon. During his administration, the area of land cleared was larger than Belgium.

When running for re-election, Lula made halting the destruction of Brazil’s immense rainforests a platform of priority. When Brazilians voted in October, maybe that stance was all that made the difference – he won by less than a percent. Immediately, his administration began to crack down on illegal logging and clearing, and to enforce the long-ignored conservation laws that hadn’t been repealed. According to satellite data, January 2023 only saw 64 square miles of forest lost in Brazil, just over a third of January 2022.

Brazil is the world’s sixth-largest source of greenhouse gases, mostly from the industries of deforestation and from cattle farming on cleared forestland. Most deforestation happen for beef production and to grow soy (for animal feed), and Brazil is the largest exporter of beef in the world, providing most of the beef sold in China and the US.

In his victory speech, Lula pledged to fight for zero deforestation in Brazil, even if it meant allowing international enforcement of his country’s protections. Environmentalists believe he could manage to reduce deforestation by 89%, if he upholds every campaign promise that he made. That’s not zero deforestation, but it would be an absolutely incredible win for forests worldwide.

Photo: Shutterstock