Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon down by 50% to five-year low in 2023

SAO PAULO (Reuters) -Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest in 2023 halved from the previous year to its lowest level since 2018, government data showed on Friday, a major win for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in his first year in office.

Lula has staked his international reputation on reducing deforestation in the South American country, with pledges to end illegal clearing by 2030. Under his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, destruction accelerated in the world’s largest rainforest.

According to preliminary satellite data from space research agency INPE, 5,153 square kilometers (1,989.6 square miles) of the Amazon were cleared in 2023, a 49.9% drop from 2022.

That is still an area more than six times the size of New York City, underscoring the challenges faced by Lula to fulfill his promise, but the lowest since 2018, the year before Bolsonaro took office.

In December alone, INPE data showed, deforestation dropped 23% year-on-year to 176.8 square kilometers.

Brazil’s Environment Ministry said the positive figures came on the back of “decisive” inspection efforts by environment watchdog Ibama, stressing that the number of notices of infraction issued by the agency rose 106% in the period.

“This is the first step towards achieving the goal of zero deforestation by 2030,” the ministry said in a statement on social media.

(Reporting by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by David Gregorio)