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Under Lula and Dilma, deforestation in the Amazon has dropped significantly – from 27,772 km² of deforested in 2004 to only 5,891 km² in 2013. A decrease of 79%.
Among the measures that led to this record reduction was the creation, in 2004, of the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon (PPCDAM). The plan’s first phase (2004-2008) sought to create over 25 million acres of federal conservation units and approve the set aside of 10 million acres of indigenous peoples’ lands.
In its second phase (2009-2011), the PPCDAM intensified deforestation monitoring and control, which included enforcement actions and the fight against organized crime. Joint operations were carried by Brazil’s environmental protection agency, IBAMA, along with the Federal Police, Federal Highway Police, and the National Public Security Force, with support from the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN) and the Army.
The two phases, both the creation of protected areas, as well as the monitoring and control of deforestation, were coordinated by Dilma Rousseff, who was then serving as President Lula’s Chief of Staff.
Average annual greenhouse gas emissions from the United Kingdom (2008-2011, current data available under the Kyoto Protocol) were approximately 600 million tons of CO2 equivalent/year. This means that, since 2010, the result of efforts to reduce deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is equivalent to zero annual emissions of the UK, the second largest economy in Europe.
A major initiative of the Lula and Dilma administrations to combat deforestation, Operation Arco Verde Terra Legal (Operation Arco Verde Land Legalization), introduced sustainable alternatives to 43 municipalities in the Amazon. These cities were not chosen at random. Rather, when taken together, in 2009, they accounted for 53% of deforestation in the region.
The Arco Verde initiative changed the economic model of these municipalities, through actions such as the regularization of land titles land environmental zoning, issuance of documentation for rural workers, providing access to credit, assuring citizens receive Social Security services, and the distribution and sharing of technology. More than 200,000 people have benefited from these efforts.
There have been 2,200 activities and R$ 317 million (US$ 112 million) invested in financing agriculture and livestock activities. And the rewards are self-evident. For example, Operation Arco Verde has led to a 23% reduction in deforestation in these 43 municipalities.
Another significant initiative that has brought about this record drop in Amazon deforestation has been Operation Arco de Fogo. Begun in 2008, it has focused on combating deforestation and violence through law enforcement activities. Involving approximately 300 agents, the operation is being carried out by Brazil’s Federal Police, in conjunction with IBAMA and the National Public Security Force. In the state of Pará, in the city of Tailândia alone, over R$ 23 million (US$ 8 million) in fines have been levied and 23,000 cubic meters of lumber confiscated.
In addition to its monitoring and containment activities, the Federal Government instituted programs in support of municipal governments working to combat the highest rates of deforestation, in a manner such that the problem would not return following the conclusion of operations.
As a result of this strategy, in the state of Pará, the cities of Paragominas, Dom Eliseu, Santana do Araguaia, Ulianópolis, Tailândia and Brasil Novo have been taken off the list of municipalities with the highest deforestation rates in the Amazon, and once again have access to rural credit, leaving behind an economic embargo that prevented local populations from being able to use their farms.
Equally, in the state of Alta Floresta, Querência, Feliz Natal, Brasnorte and Marcelândia have also been removed from the list of those with the highest rates of deforestation.
Another important initiative, involving the federal government, civil society and farmers, was the Soybean Moratorium. During the moratorium, the area in which soybeans were planted on deforested lands in the Amazon biome represented only 0.7% of deforestation in the three monitored states (Mato Grosso, Pará and Rondônia).
Given the advances made in monitoring the Amazon via satellite data, during President Lula’s second term in office, Brazil’s federal government launched the Satellite Monitoring of Deforestation in Brazilian Biomes Project (PMDBBS).
With financial support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the objective of the PMDBBS was to establish and implement a satellite system to monitor the deforestation taking place in Brazil’s Caatinga, Cerrado, Mata Atlântica, Pampa and Pantanal biomes. The project seeks to quantify deforestation activities taking place in areas where native vegetation exists and to support enforcement actions to combat the illegal deforestation of these biomes.