The return of President Lula is a boost to efforts to halt deforestation in Brazil, but he faces significant impediments in his efforts to move the needle. We travelled to Brazil to deepen our understanding and encourage reform. During the trip we met with policymakers, soy traders and meatpackers as part of our wider engagement on this topic.
Rainforest degradation – are we at a turning point?
Brazil’s natural habitats are incredibly valuable on every metric. The country contains 15-20% of the world’s biological diversity, including two biodiversity hotspots (the Cerrado and Atlantic Forest) and 60% of the Amazon rainforest. These habitats are also important socio-economic contributors – the Amazon contributes $8.2 billion to the Brazilian economy and there are almost 900,000 Indigenous peoples across 305 ethnic groups in Brazil. However, Brazil’s natural habitats are being systematically degraded. There are three primary industries that drive habitat loss and degradation in Brazil: cattle, soy, and illegal gold mining. Cattle production is the proximate cause of more than 70% of Brazilian Amazon deforestation, of which most is illegal. Soy production is the second most significant driver of habitat loss in Brazil. Illegal gold mining has an even more insidious impact, with illegal miners encroaching on Indigenous reserves and protected areas in the Amazon, propagating violence, disease and pollution. The situation was exacerbated under the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro from 2019 to 2022, who oversaw a systematic weakening of the regulatory framework preventing habitat conversion.
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