Between 2007 and 2008, almost 3 million acres of rainforest in the Brazilian Amazon were lost to illegal logging, soy plantations, cattle ranching, and other human industries such as road building and mining. A significant part of what remains is under direct threat - as are the forest plants, animals and people who depend upon the forest. Forests also hold many cures for illness. 25 percent of pharmaceuticals come from plants. As the Amazon disappears, so do the medicinal treasures still undiscovered there.
Insufficient legislation & threats to the forest code
The powerful agribusiness sector within the Brazilian Congress are lobbying for changes to Brazil’s conservation laws which would allow landowners to clear larger portions of their land, while providing amnesty to all those who have already illegally cleared their forest in the past. If Brazil’s conservation laws are relaxed, it would have serious implications for the Amazon and the global climate.
Before planting soy or seeding areas for cattle ranching, farmers often remove the most valuable timber from areas they have illegally occupied. As one of the first steps in the cycle of destruction land grabbers build logging roads into pristine rainforest. Once accessible these roads open the door to further devastation of the forest ecosystem through clearing for agricultural operations, fuel wood gathering, and mining.
Fueled by the demand for cheap supplies of tropical timbers for both the Brazilian domestic market and the international market, the illegal timber trade represents a major factor in forest degradation. Between 60 and 80 percent of all logging in the Brazilian Amazon is estimated to be illegal and of all the timber that is cut, as much as 70 percent is wasted in the mills.
Burning Forests for Cattle and Soy
Brazil is now the world’s largest beef exporter. Clearing rainforest for this multibillion dollar industry is now responsible for 80 percent of forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon. Cattle now accounts for half of Brazil's greenhouse gases, according to a study by researchers at public universities and institutes. A big proportion of that is indirect emissions from deforestation to create pastures.
In 2004-05, around 1.2 million hectares of soya (5% of the national total) was planted in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. Most of this was cleared illegally. Market demands continued to drive this activity.
A 2006 Greenpeace investigation exposed the direct links between soya expansion, Amazon deforestation, and big brand corporate consumers. This resulted in a moratorium on soya grown in newly deforested land by the international soya industry. The moratorium has succeeded in vastly reducing the role soya expansion plays in driving deforestation, however as it is a temporary measure, we now need to move the industry to a permanent zero deforestation solution.
Pig iron is a driver of deforestation in the Amazon that rarely gets any attention. Charcoal producers are illegally burning wood and vegetation from the nearby rainforest to supply coal to iron-working companies in Brazil, and, according to Bloomberg News, they are using workers in slave-like conditions to do it.
Read more: "Top name brands implicated in Amazon destruction"
Read more: "Putting soy impacts on the map"
Greenpeace Solutions to Amazon Deforestation
Zero Deforestation Proposal
In October of 2007, Greenpeace and other non-profits released a plan to stop deforestation in the Amazon by 2015. The proposal, only part of which has been adopted by the Brazilian government, sets out specific targets that could see deforestation drop gradually over the next six years. The plan represents thinking on a massive scale, but we believe it can be done.
Zero deforestation is a social imperative – necessary for the survival of many forest-dwelling people.
Zero deforestation is an ecological imperative – necessary for maintaining biodiversity and ecological systems that are essential for life.
Zero deforestation is a climate imperative – necessary for storing 80-120 billion tons of carbon which would otherwise escalate climate change.
Over the next three years Greenpeace will:
- Strengthen protective legislation.
- Strengthen the cattle agreement, keeping the largest slaughterhouses in Brazil committed to zero deforestation and moving the whole industry to deforestation free production.
- Extend and strengthen the soya moratorium, advocating that all soy farms register land ownership with the government.
- Stop deforestation caused by turning trees into charcoal for pig iron industry.
Read the agreement
Read the Zero Deforestation Announcement
Forest for Climate Funding Mechanism
Forests for Climate is a groundbreaking proposal for an international funding mechanism to protect tropical forests. The mechanism would become part of the second phase (post-2012) of the Kyoto agreement on climate change.
In the race to fight global warming, time is of the essence. If countries commit to Forests for Climate, funding to protect tropical forests could become available as soon as 2009. Cutting emissions from deforestation in half would take only an estimated $10 to $15 billion per year from the international community. Forests for Climate has the potential to raise far more than that in a balanced, responsible way.
Forests for Climate fact sheet
Forests for Climate technical report
Click here to read more about Greenpeace's Solutions to Amazon Deforestation