Amazon fires break records in June

amazon fire pandemic
Photo: Wilson Lima/ABr

June saw the highest number of Amazon fires for the month since 2007, according to the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe). By way of satellite analysis, Brazil registered over 2,200 heat spots caused by fires throughout the month, representing a 19.57 increase on the previous month and the highest level for June since 2007. Experts believe the record-breaking figures are the result of a combination of less land surveillance during the Covid-19 pandemic and the lack of environmental protection actions taken during President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration.

In contrast to worldwide trends that saw CO2 emissions and deforestation rates go down during the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brazil is actually registering higher deforestation figures since the arrival of the coronavirus. The main difference, it seems, is the federal government’s lax stance toward illegal land-grabbing and deforestation.

During an April cabinet meeting, Environment Minister Ricardo Salles suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic was the perfect time to “run the cattle herd” through the Amazon, by allowing the agribusiness industry to exploit environmentally protected territories while everybody else is “busy” with Covid-19.

Many environmental activists now fear that 2020 will only see a repeat of the Amazon fire crisis of last year.

“Containing a collapse [of the Amazon ecosystem] is now in the hands of a government that works against the environment and has been proving itself incapable of combating the destruction of the largest patrimony Brazilians have: the Amazon,” said Greenpeace member Rômulo Batista, in an interview with newspaper O Estado de São Paulo.

Deforestation isn’t good for business either

Last week, a group of 30 financial investment companies — responsible for funds worth USD 4.1 trillion — issued an open letter to the Brazilian government, urging it to do more in protecting the environment against widespread deforestation.  As previously reported by The Brazilian Report, Storebrand CEO Jan Erik Saugestad — one of the co-signatories — warned that if deforestation continues, Brazilian companies will likely suffer to secure foreign investments moving forward.

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