Environment Minister Joaquim Pereira Leite admits the deforestation amounts to a series of “crimes”, but says increased protections have recently been introduced.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has jumped 22% in the latest 12-month period, reaching its highest level since 2006, data from the country’s space agency shows.
Between August 2020 and July 2021, trees were felled from land measuring 13,235 square km (5,110 square miles), the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) said.
The state of Para suffered the most deforestation, accounting for 40% of the latest figure. There are nine states in the Amazon region.
Data was gathered through the INPE’s PRODES satellite programme.Advertisement
Deforestation has accelerated since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January 2019.
Before then, the Brazilian Amazon had not recorded a single year with more than 10,000 square km of deforestation in over a decade.
Between 2009 and 2018, the annual average was 6,500 square km. Since then, it has risen to 11,405 square km.
“It is a shame. It is a crime,” said Márcio Astrini from the Climate Observatory, a Brazilian advocacy group.
“We are seeing the Amazon rainforest being destroyed by a government which made environmental destruction its public policy.”
The INPE report is dated 27 October, meaning a Brazilian delegation went to COP26 “knowing the deforestation data and hid it”, the Climate Observatory added.
Mr Bolsonaro did not attend the summit in Glasgow, with Brazil’s top climate diplomat, Paulino de Carvalho Neto, telling Sky News the president had “other things to do”.
Environment Minister Joaquim Pereira Leite admitted the deforestation amounts to a series of “crimes”.
But the latest data does not reflect recently introduced measures against illegal deforestation, he added.
Though he admitted the government must be more forceful in fighting destruction.
“The numbers are still a challenge for us and we have to be more forceful in relation to these crimes,” he said.
Brazil said earlier this month that it wants to end illegal deforestation by 2028.
Mr Bolsonaro told the UN in September that “no country in the world has a more complete environmental legislation than ours”.
But he added that Brazil’s sheer size made enforcement difficult.