Brazil to Expedite Its Plan to Eliminate Illegal Deforestation by 2028

Brazil plans to expedite its plan to completely eradicate illegal deforestation by two to three years, Vice President Hamilton Mourão told reporters Monday. President Jair Bolsonara in April presented a goal of eliminating the practice by 2030, but Mourão said that Brazil's delegation will announce at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland that it plans to meet the objective by 2027 or 2028, the Associated Press reported.

"A more ambitious goal in terms of reducing illegal deforestation in a shorter time would be, in my opinion, extremely welcome by the international community. And it would make clear the government's commitment to work to impede climate change from hurting life on earth," said Mourão, who coordinates the Brazil government's Amazon Council.

When Bolsonaro was campaigning in 2018, he pledged to capitalize on the resources in the Amazon rainforest, largely minimizing the rights and pleas from Indigenous people who asked him to stay away from the land. His promises are believed to have contributed to illegal logging and wildcat mining, or high-risk oil drilling, that boosted deforestation, the AP reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Brazil Expediting Illegal Deforestation Elimination Plans
Brazil plans to expedite its plan to completely eradicate illegal deforestation by two to three years, Vice President Hamilton Mourão told reporters Monday. Above, Mourão reacts during the swearing-in of Health Minister Nelson Teich at the Planalto Palace on April 17, 2020, in Brasilia. Andressa Anholete/Getty Images

Bolsonaro has reeled in such contentious rhetoric as he seeks to rehabilitate Brazil's tattered environmental image abroad and project responsible stewardship. His critics have warned that his shift is disingenuous and that recent months of encouraging data that indicated less deforestation doesn't necessarily represent a trend.

For several months, the Brazilian space agency's satellites recorded fewer deforestation alerts in the Amazon than the same months in 2020. At the United Nations in September, Bolsonaro credited his administration's redoubled efforts for the plunge of alerts the prior month.

But the number of alerts in September was roughly flat year-on-year, and preliminary data for October shows it on track to far outpace the destruction of the same month last year.

Earlier this month, Mourão said that the three-month deployment of 3,000 soldiers to the Amazon rainforest to prevent deforestation and man-made fires was coming to an end and wouldn't be extended.

Mourão told the foreign press on Monday that the administration continues to hold that the Amazon should be developed—but in a manner congruent with a view toward sustainability and arresting climate change, and in observance of Brazilian law.

Asked about the ongoing dispute over the double counting of carbon credits—in both the nation offsetting emissions and the nation buying the offsets—Mourão initially said the government is opposed, which would mark a change in the country's stance. Nations in Glasgow will address potentially closing loopholes that allow for double counting; that would force countries like Brazil to decide if they count emissions reductions toward their own goals or the sale of reductions abroad to another country's goals.

"Double counting, I have absolute certainty we don't agree with that there," he said. "We don't support that under any hypothesis."

Pressed further for clarification about whether the government was shifting its position, he said he wasn't privy to the delegation's negotiation strategy.

"It's not up to me to unravel all the nuances of that strategy. You know, it is a negotiation, and it is being done with that 'push and pull,'" Mourão said, adding that he hopes to reach consensus that yields "mutual benefits."

Experts have accused Brazil of adjusting its emissions targets last year in a way that would allow it to release more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, unlike most other nations, which have stepped up ambitions.

"Brazil has made a significantly worse proposal," said Niklas Hoehne of the Berlin-based New Climate Institute. The government has proposed cutting emissions 43 percent by 2030 from the level 25 years earlier, but last year significantly increased the estimate for its baseline, making the target easier to accomplish.

Amazon Deforestation
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's campaign promises are believed to have contributed to illegal logging and wilcat mining, or high-risk oil drilling, that boosted deforestation in the country. The sun lights part of a path opened by illegal loggers in the Renascer Reserve of the Amazon rainforest in Prainha, Para state, Brazil, on Nov. 22, 2019. Leo Correa/AP Photo