According to official figures released on Wednesday November 30, the Brazilian Amazon destroyed an area bigger than Qatar in the 12 months to July, but showed a decline from the year before, but an increase overall under outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro.
In the latest grim news on the world's biggest rainforest, satellite monitoring showed 11,568 square kilometres of forest cover were destroyed in the Brazilian Amazon from August 2021 to July 2022, according to INPE's annual deforestation tracking program, PRODES.
The figure was a decrease of 11.3 per cent from the year before when INPE detected 13,038 square kilometres of deforestation -- a 15 year high.
It closed out four years of what environmentalists call disastrous management of the Amazon under the far right Bolsonaro. His successor, the veteran leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da SilvaLula da Silva, has vowed to work toward zero deforestation when he takes office on January 1.
According to INPE figures, the average annual deforestation rose by 59.5 per cent from the previous four years and by 75.5 per cent from the previous decade.
The Bolsonaro government is a forest-destroying machine. The only good news is that it's about to end, said Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory.
He said that Lula - who had previously led Brazil from 2003 to 2010 - will show zero tolerance for environmental crimes because he will hand his successor a filthy legacy of surging deforestation and an Amazon in flames.
The Environment Ministry and Bolsonaro didn't respond immediately to requests for comment.
Experts say that the vast majority of the clear-cutting and fires erasing the Amazon are intended to create new farmland, especially for cattle ranches in Brazil, the world's top beef exporter.
Mariana Napolitano, science director at the World Wildlife Fund Brazil office, said that the Amazon is being pushed towards a tipping point.
She said in a statement that reducing deforestation is critical for humankind in the face of the twin climate and nature crises the world is facing.
Environmentalists said the figures had been ready since Nov 3, and accused the government of stalling their release in order to avoid embarrassment at the UN's COP 27 climate conference in Egypt.
Bolsonaro, who has faced international outcry over the Amazon, did not attend the conference.
Lula won in a runoff election, defeating Bolsonaro.
The 77-year-old president-elect received a rock star's welcome from climate campaigners who hope Brazil will do a better job protecting its 60 per cent stake in Amazon, whose billions of carbon-absorbing trees are a key buffer against global warming.