Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon dropped by 22.3% in the 12 months through July, government data showed Thursday, as President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva made progress on a pledge to rein in the destruction that happened under his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.
Some 9,000 square kilometers (3,475 square miles) of Amazon jungle were destroyed in the 12 months through July, according to data from Brazilian space research agency Inpe, down from the 11,568 square kilometers cleared a year earlier.
It was the smallest area cleared since 2018, the year before Bolsonaro took office. The Amazon jungle is the world’s largest rainforest and its protection is seen as vital to curbing climate change.
“It’s an impressive result and seals Brazil’s return to the climate agenda,” said Marcio Astrini, head of advocacy group Climate Observatory.
Still, this year’s deforestation rate remains nearly twice that of the all-time low in forest destruction in 2012 and far from Lula’s pledge to reach zero deforestation by 2030.
Lula staked his international reputation on halting deforestation on assuming office this year and stepped up enforcement of environmental laws after four years of soaring destruction under Bolsonaro, who weakened environmental agencies.
Under the right-wing former president, destruction at the hands of ranchers, land speculators and miners surged to a 15 year high.
The annual data, produced yearly by Inpe’s PRODES satellite monitoring program, is far more accurate than its DETER alert system, which publishes weekly figures.
The official annual period is measured from August to July as there is less cloud cover in the middle of the year to obscure deforestation on satellite images.