Greenpeace demands urgent action to prevent further surges in Amazon deforestation

Analysis shows Lula forest protection plan largely inactive and floundering

Press release - 6 March, 2008
At a press briefing, Greenpeace today provided an analysis of why the Lula Government's 2004 forest protection 'Action Plan' failed to stop the record-breaking level of deforestation in the Amazon reported for the last half of 2007(1). If further record-breaking Amazonian deforestation levels are to be averted, real political will and deforestation reduction targets need to be urgently implemented.

A destroyed Brazilian nut tree field (castanheira) in the Amazon rainforest.An analysis provided by Greenpeace and a recent photo documentation show how the Lula Government’s forest protection ‘Action Plan’ failed to stop the record-breaking level of deforestation in the Amazon reported for last half of 2007.

The Greenpeace analysis, entitled "The Lion wakes up", reveals that of 162 'activities' under 32 strategic directions in the 2004 Plan, over 60 percent have not been enacted and less than a third of the strategic directions were completed by the end of last year. The report also reveals an extraordinary lack of coordination by the President's Chief of Staff of the thirteen Government Ministries involved in delivering the Plan.

Deforestation rates fell significantly in the three years after announcing the plan, allowing the Government to claim success. However, Greenpeace's specialists and Brazilian researchers have made clear that this was less connected to the plan than to fluctuations in the commodities markets for soya and cattle(2).  Put simply, as soya and cattle prices rise and fall so does the demand for land and associated forest clearance. "Poor coordination and a serious failure to implement key components of the Plan have left the Amazon vulnerable to the vagaries of the commodities market," warned the main author, Marcelo Marquesini, Greenpeace Amazon campaigner.

The devastating 2007 deforestation figures published earlier this year came in stark contrast to the proud boasts of success made by President Lula of his Government's plan to fight deforestation and his claims at the Bali climate meeting, in December, that decreasing rates of deforestation were proof that Brazil was doing its part to combat global warming. As a direct result of deforestation, Brazil ranks as the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Greenpeace believes that the action plan contains another fatal flaw: a lack of deforestation reduction targets. "The Government's initiative to fight deforestation has many virtues, but it is crucial to establish concrete, clear and measurable targets for the annual reduction of the loss of forest cover. This would allow the government - at local, state and federal levels - to plan ahead in an integrated manner, and to evaluate its own performance, making timely adjustments," said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon campaign coordinator. "In any case, if efforts to contain deforestation are to be effective, it is necessary, above all, to consolidate in a definitive way the provisional act on the Forest Code (3), which establishes that no more than 20% of the Amazon's farming area can be cleared. It may seem obvious and redundant, but if the rules defining what should be used and what should be preserved remain in the form of a provisional act, no decisive victories will be achieved in the fight against deforestation."

The plan is, however, not without its successes, such as the development of the Real Time Deforestation Detection System (DETER) by the Brazilian Institute of Space Research (INPE) and the distribution of satellite images to civil society organisations, which allowed NGOS and research institutions to help the Government to detect and analyse the problems and causes of deforestation. In this case, the commitment of transparency was accomplished by the Government.

Deforestation is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, second only to the energy sector, and is responsible for about 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Tackling deforestation is essential if we are to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Other contacts: Paulo Adário, Greenpeace Amazon Campaign Coordinator:+55 92 8115 8928Tica Minami, Communications Officer for Greenpeace Amazon Campaign: +55 92 8114 4517Further contact information for reporters to get video, photos, or report information:Franca Michienzi, Greenpeace International Photodesk:+31 6 290 01162Maarten van Roouveroy, Greenpeace International Video Production:+31 6 461 97322

Notes: (1) From August 2004 to July 2007, the Amazon deforestation decreased for many reasons, including the reduction in the price of agribusiness' commodities, such as soya and meat.Amazon deforestation rates: - 2004/2005: 18759 km2- 2005/2006: 14039 km2- 2006/2007: 11224 km2(2) Although the price of soya has increased by more than 70 percent in the last 12 months, there is a two-year moratorium in place on buying soya from newly deforested land in the Amazon. This was announced by multinational soya traders who buy Brazilian Soya and in general finance producers in Brazil. This initiative may have contributed for the fact that the area planted with soya on the 2006/2007 and 2007/2008 seasons is smaller than the one registered on 2004/2005 season. A recent comprehensive Greenpeace investigation into newly deforested or severely degraded areas did not find soya planted in these areas up to now, although it has been identified deforestation in soya farms.The moratorium was announced after Greenpeace and local communities from Santarém, Brazil exposed the threat of soya expansion to the Amazon. The Forest Code is Brazil's forest legislation that provides the legal framework for forest occupation, use and protection of the country's forests. Until 1996, it used to authorise clearance of 50 percent of the private property in the Amazon rainforests. However, a presidential provisory act reduced this percentage to allow only 20 percent of clearance. This is currently in place, but still pending final/permanent consolidation on approval of the Congress.