Amazon Rainforest Gets New Deal As Brazil, Colombia Vow Protection
After four years of runaway deforestation in the Amazon under Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, the election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who took office on 1 January, could be a decisive turning point, Luke Taylor reported for The New Scientist.
Photo Insert: Despite the challenges ahead, Lula’s win has made researchers and conservationists more optimistic that the Amazon can be saved.
Lula has pledged to aim for net-zero deforestation – the first Brazilian president to do so. “A standing tree is worth more than thousands of logs,” he said in his victory speech on 31 October.
“That is why we will resume the surveillance of the entire Amazon and any illegal activity.”
As well as the restoration of monitoring and surveillance efforts, Lula is proposing several ambitious projects, such as a national climate authority and a sustainable farming scheme.
But without a majority in Brazil’s Congress, it is unclear whether he will be able to deliver on these pledges. It will also take time to dislodge the illegal industries that have taken hold in the Amazon, such as gold mining.
Despite the challenges ahead, Lula’s win has made researchers and conservationists more optimistic that the Amazon can be saved, even as there are signs it is hitting a tipping point that would see it transform into savannah.
“The election of Lula is a great reason for hope,” says Mark Plotkin, an ethnobotanist and co-founder of non-profit organization the Amazon Conservation Team. The impact of Lula’s environmental policy should be magnified by the recent election of eco-conscious governments elsewhere in South America that have campaigned to protect the rainforest.
In Colombia, which is home to some of the Amazon’s most biodiverse regions, President Gustavo Petro is also positioning himself as a regional steward of the rainforest, after taking office in August 2022.
Petro is pushing for high-income countries to support South America’s defense of the rainforest and he is also overseeing a total rethink of Colombia’s conservation strategy.
After decades of criminalizing farmers who clear the forest for agriculture, the Colombian government now plans to offer them financial support to transition to more sustainable practices, such as harvesting Amazonian fruits from the trees.