It is a success for President Lula. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, against which he had promised to fight resolutely, halved last year, according to official figures published Friday January 5.

A total of 5,152 square kilometers of forest were destroyed in the Brazilian Amazon last year, down 50% from 2022. The world’s largest rainforest plays a vital role against global warming, thanks to carbon absorption.

However, the opposite is happening in the Cerrado savannah, south of the Amazon rainforest: destruction has reached a new annual record, with an increase of 43% compared to 2022, according to the government program of monitoring of deforestation. The Cerrado, an ecosystem rich in immense biodiversity and closely linked to the Amazon, lost more than 7,800 square kilometers of vegetation last year, the highest figure since measurements began in 2018.

“Great victories”

“We have seen some great environmental victories in 2023. The significant reduction in deforestation in the Amazon is one of them,” responded Mariana Napolitano, of the NGO WWF-Brazil. “But, unfortunately, we do not observe the same trend in the Cerrado,” she added, highlighting the “attacks” on this ecosystem and the “services” it provides.

Environmental groups have accused the government of left-wing President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva of turning a blind eye to the destruction of the Cerrado, far less famous globally than the Amazon, to satisfy the powerful agriculture sector. Brazilian agro-trading.

Data for the Amazon and Cerrado was updated through December 29. A total of 12,980 square kilometers were razed in the two regions in 2023, down 18% from 2022.

After his 2022 victory over far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro in a close vote, Lula returned to the country’s helm on January 1, 2023, promising that Brazil was “back” as a partner in the fight for the climate. During the mandate of Mr. Bolsonaro (2019-2022), an ally of agro-business, annual deforestation in the Amazon had suffered an average increase of 75% compared to the previous decade.

Experts say the destruction in the Amazon and the Cerrado is mostly due to livestock farming and intensive agriculture; Brazil is the world leader in beef and soy exports.