Amazon rainforest destruction slows

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has welcomed new figures showing the destruction of the Amazon rainforest decreased by 25% between 2005 and 2006, saying his environmental policies and measures against illegal logging have had an effect.

The Amazon rainforest is threatened by illegal logging

Environmentalists agreed the figures looked good, but added that economic conditions, such as a fall in the price of crops such as soya, were also a factor.

In his weekly radio address President Lula told the nation that he is convinced that “It is possible to have growth while preserving the environment…The challenge that we have overcome is knowing how to use the jungle and how to preserve the environment while allowing people’s lives to be improved.”

Brazil releases about 1 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, more than 75% of which is caused by deforestation. President Lula said the drop in deforestation had prevented the release of 410m tonnes of greenhouse gases and the destruction of 600,000 trees.

Paulo Moutinho, co-ordinator at the Environmental Research Institute of the Amazon, told Reuters that rising commodity prices this year could fuel renewed destruction: if the price of crops rises, incentive increases for illegal loggers to clear forested areas for planting.

“Awareness and policies improved in the federal and state governments, but the real test is if rates fall during a commodity price rally.”