As scientists warn Brazil’s rainforest is nearing a point of irreversible decline, Lula makes ambitious deforestation pledge Former Brazilian leader blames ‘disgrace of history’ on trees
BRASILIA – Brazil on Thursday made a commitment to reduce deforestation by more than a sixth in the next decade, a far-reaching and ambitious step that has earned praise but was greeted with skepticism by some environmental groups.
Prime Minister Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced the target on the last day of a three-day conference on the environmental crisis that has engulfed the rainforests of Amazonia, an area of rainforest covering almost two-fifths of Brazil and one-fifth of South America.
The announcement put the environmental group Greenpeace on the defensive, arguing the government was using the issue as a political platform and that the government was too quick to make promises that would eventually be forgotten.
Speaking at the Rio Congress, Lula said that the country’s action plan would give “a new meaning to the term ‘environment.'” He did not give an estimate of how much the plan would cost, but said he expected the spending to be “very low.”
“The government will not give a single tree, not one tree, to the Amazon,” said Lula, who succeeded president Dilma Rousseff after her removal from office following a Supreme Court ruling that the country was illegally exporting timber for use in building a disputed mega-dport in the Amazon. “We are going to give a new meaning to the term ‘environment.’ Brazil will not be a nation of trees, but a nation of people who live well and live the simple life.”
He described the destruction of the Amazon as a “disgrace of history” and said the country was facing a “humanitarian emergency” if the rain forest continued to decline.
“I firmly believe it is urgent that the Amazon be returned, because if this doesn’t happen, the future generations… are going to suffer from the degradation of this environment.”
Critics said the announcement ignored the realities of deforestation and forest degradation, which are already high by global standards.
The Amazon region is the world’s largest rain forest, believed to contain one-fifth of all the fresh water on Earth, and about 20 percent of the world’s biodiversity as well as more than 40 percent of its tree species. Brazil is