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Falling Amazon deforestation rates create opportunity for other damaged forests

Brasilia, Brazil:  Fewer trees were cut down in the Amazon this year, creating an opportunity to apply sound government policies to halt deforestation in other damaged forests, WWF says.

Data released Thursday by the Brazilian government shows that the deforestation rate in the Amazon fell between August 2008 and July 2009. Overall, the deforested region is a 45 percent smaller than Amazon land cleared the previous year, or between August 2007 and July 2008.

This is the lowest rate of deforestation in the Amazon since record-keeping began in 2000, and down from a high of more than 27,000 square kms in 2004.

However, the Amazon did lose 7,008 square kms of forest this year, according to government officials and President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who attended a ceremony Thursday to announce this year’s deforestation figures.

According to Denise Hamú, WWF-Brazil's CEO, although it is essential to recognize the efforts made by the federal and state governments as well as Brazilian society in general, further action is required.

"Deforestation needs to continue falling in a sustainable manner and must take place in other Brazilian biomes in addition to the Amazon, such as the Cerrado", she stated.

Hamú also said that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held in Copenhagen in December, will be a good opportunity for Brazil to defend the adoption of clear and ambitious emission reduction commitments by the participant countries.

"Deforestation numbers such as the ones showed today by President Lula strengthen Brazil's credentials to lead the climate negotiations and take the forefront in building a new development model for the world that respects the environment and the people", Hamú said.

Among the other biomes, the most critical situation is found in the Cerrado. While deforestation in the Amazon has finally fallen below 10,000 km2, in the Cerrado it surpasses 20,000 km2.

Despite conservation efforts, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate – 13 million hectares per year, or 36 football fields a minute. It generates almost 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and halting forest loss has been identified as one of the most cost-effective ways to keep the world out of the danger zone of runaway climate change.

According to Cláudio Maretti, WWF-Brazil's Conservation Director, apart from decreasing emissions caused by deforestation in the Amazon the country needs to work on achieving reductions in the industry and transport sectors, and especially in energy generation and transmission processes.

"After all, the planet urgently needs expressive greenhouse gas emission reductions", he said.

Positive efforts made by the Brazilian government that should be applied in other areas include: Creating and implementing protected areas, promoting sustainable forest management, restricting public credit for land grabbers and deforesters, and promoting land tenure regularization actions. Also important are efforts to minimize the impacts of large-scale infrastructure projects such as roads and dams.

In addition, Maretti said it is essential to implement a consistent payment mechanism for ecological services - which consists in compensating producers who conserve the standing forest.

Learn more:

  • Amazon
  • Forests

For more information or to arrange interviews, contact:
Monica Echeverria, monica.echeverria@wwfus.org, Tel: +1 (202) 495 4626

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