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(BBC NEWS) The number of trees cut down in the Brazilian Amazon in January far exceeded deforestation for the same month last year, according to government satellite data.
The area destroyed was five times larger than 2021, the highest January total since records began in 2015. Environmentalists accuse Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro of allowing deforestation to accelerate.
Protecting the Amazon is essential if we are to tackle climate change.
Trees are felled for their wood as well as to clear spaces to plant crops to supply global food companies.
At the climate change summit COP26 in Glasgow last year, more than 100 governments promised to stop and reverse deforestation by 2030.
The latest satellite data from Brazil’s space agency Inpe again calls into question the Brazilian government’s commitment to protecting its huge rainforest, say environmentalists.
“The new data yet again exposes how the government’s actions contradict its greenwashing campaigns,” explains Cristiane Mazzetti of Greenpeace Brazil.
Greenpeace are calling on supermarkets in the UK and elsewhere to drop suppliers who are involved in deforestation from their meat and dairy supply chains suppliers.
Deforestation totalled 430 square kilometres (166 square miles) in January – an area more than seven times the size of Manhattan, New York.
Felling large numbers of trees at the start of the year is unusual because the rainy season usually stops loggers from accessing dense forest.
Brazil’s vast rainforest absorbs huge amounts of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, acting as what’s known as a carbon sink. But the more trees cut down, the less the forest can soak up emissions.
But the area is also home to communities who say they need to use the forest for mining and commercial farming in order to make a living.
At the same time, indigenous communities living in the Amazon fight to protect the rainforest and their ways of life. Mr Bolsonaro has weakened environmental protections for the region and argued that the government should exploit the area to reduce poverty.