Brazil and Colombia see “remarkable” decrease in forest destruction after leadership changes, data show

Forest destruction in Brazil and Colombia declined “sharply” between 2022 and 2023, according to data from the University of Maryland’s GLAD Lab that was shared as part of the World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch. In Brazil, primary forest loss fell by 36%, and in Colombia, by 49%, which WRI called a “remarkable” decline.

“Yet despite these dramatic reductions, the rate of primary tropical forest loss in 2023 has remained stubbornly constant,” Forest Watch researchers warned, due to huge spikes in tree cutting in Bolivia, Laos and Nicaragua. Data shows that an area of ​​forest the size of 10 football fields is destroyed on average every minute worldwide.

But WRI says the changes in Brazil and Colombia show the difference political will can make.

In Brazil, the WRI said the reduction in forest loss began with the government transition from former President Jair Bolsonaro, who eroded environmental protections, to returning President Inácio Lula da Silva, who committed to ending deforestation.

French President Emmanuel Macron visits Amazon in Brazil for the first time
French President Emmanuel Macron (right) visits the Amazon for the first time as he and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visit a community on Ilha do Combu, an area of ​​Amazon rainforest in the city of Belem, in Brazil, March 26, 2024. .

Filipe Bispo/Anadolu/Getty

In Colombia, changing forest loss has also been accompanied by a change in leadership, with the administration of President Gustavo Petro Urrego focusing on rural and environmental reform.

“As some countries demonstrate political will to reduce forest loss and others do not, the boundaries of forest loss shift,” the WRI said.

“There are only six years left until 2030, when leaders from 145 countries have pledged to halt and reverse forest loss,” the WRI said. “While declining forest loss in Brazil and Colombia shows promise for this commitment, it is clear that the world is far from meeting its goals.”

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While deforestation remains a major concern globally, a study published several years ago raised hopes that even forests cut down or burned could grow back almost completely in just a few decades if humans let them.

The study published in the journal Science looked at 77 different forest sites across the tropics that were abandoned after deforestation. Abandoned by humans for 20 years, scientists discovered that forests had regained on average 78% of their initial growth.


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