Amazon records skyrocketing number of fire outbreaks after elections in Brazil

11 novembro 2022

While control agency paralyses its inspections, deforestation keeps on the rise and fires are out of control in several states
By WWF-Brasil 

Shortly after the second round of the presidential elections in Brazil, wildfires skyrocketed in several states in the Amazon, according to data from the Queimadas Program of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE). The worst case is Rondônia, where 1,526 fire outbreaks were recorded between November 1 and 10. The value is about 10 times higher than the average recorded in this period between 2012 and 2021 (149 fire outbreaks).

The fires also shot up in the states of Acre, Amazonas and Mato Grosso, while they tend to reduce in this period, which is the beginning of the rainy season. In all the four states, the number of fire outbreaks are far above the averages recorded between 2012 and 2021 for the first 10 days of November. In Acre, although the number of fire outbreaks is lower than in Rondônia, the increase is even scarier, with almost 22 times more fire outbreaks than the average (882 outbreaks against 40). In Mato Grosso, there were 858 fire outbreaks, more than 3 times above the average (226 outbreaks). In Amazonas, there were 758 outbreaks, a number almost four times greater than the average (197 outbreaks).

Deforestation is also on the rise in the Amazon. October data, released by INPE this Friday (11), show that the biome had 904 km² devastated last month, a value 3% higher than that recorded in October last year and 40% higher than the average of DETER's historical series (2015-2021). As a result, the accumulated deforestation between January 1st and October 31st of this year is the highest value in DETER's historical series (since 2015) with the destruction of 9,494 km².

The state of Pará led the ranking of deforested area, with 3,253 km² of native forest lost since the beginning of the year and 435 km² in the last month (48% of the total deforested in the biome). Followed by Mato Grosso (150 km²), Amazonas (142 km²) and Rondônia (69 km²). Two municipalities in Pará have the highest forest loss since the beginning of the month, namely Pacajá (56 km²) and Portel (41 km²). The protection areas that suffered the most pressure in October were the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve in Acre and the Jamanxim National Forest in Pará, both covering 3 km².

“The increase in deforestation and fire alerts was to be expected - yet the numbers for the first ten days of November are frightening. While in October, the fires remained at the same level as in the previous two years, the beginning of November clearly shows an unbridled race for devastation in some states. It is urgent that forest protection systems be re-established. Fire is one of the main factors of degradation in the Amazon biome, in addition to being responsible for thousands of respiratory problems and hospitalisations each year”, says Mariana Napolitano, Head of Science at WWF-Brazil.

The increase in fires and deforestation comes at the same moment when the federal government ordered the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) to reduce inspection costs by 80%. Since November 1, areas of the institute have been receiving messages with the order to "cancel all inspection operations that depend on budget resources (daily subsistence allowances, tickets, fuel, supplies and others) planned for the first half of November".

The explosion of fires shortly after the second round of elections in Brazil also seems to confirm the fears of environmentalists, who predicted an acceleration of environmental crimes in the last two months of the year, given the expectation that the next government of president elect Lula will recover the environmental protection system.

“Bolsonaro is about to leave and there is a feeling among those who profit from the illegality that the window of opportunity is closing. The new government will have a lot of work to do to get the country back on track, to end this perception that the Amazon is a lawless land. The government will have to restructure bodies as Ibama, ICMBio and the Federal Police, putting people with experience back in the most important positions, recovering the budget, resuming a consistent strategy to fight deforestation and organised crime in the region, which has strengthened during the years of collaboration of the Bolsonaro government”, says Raul do Valle, Public Policy Specialist at WWF-Brazil. 
 

Weak commitments

While the Amazon is the scene of this race for destruction, large companies that operate in the agricultural sector - and that could make a difference to contribute to the end of deforestation - presented a disappointing commitment at COP-27, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

On Monday, November 7, companies that represent a dominant share of the global trade in forest and ecosystem risk commodities published a Roadmap to Improved Supply Chain Action Consistent with a 1.5°C Path. The document, however, does not lead to the deep and urgent transformation that is needed to eliminate the environmental devastation of agricultural commodity supply chains, despite the clear demands of a collective of Brazilian and international civil society organisations, published in a Manifesto for the end of deforestation and conversion, addressed to companies and governments.

These companies are primarily responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions released through deforestation and ecosystem destruction. But the commitment presented at COP-27 does not have a clear cut-off date for deforestation - the date from which the product will not be considered compliant and free of deforestation - nor proper targets to eliminate deforestation and the conversion of production chains, like the soy chain. Also, savannas such as those in the Cerrado biome, which have very significant ecological and social value, were outside the scope of the proposal to rid production chains of deforestation and conversion.

Without eliminating deforestation and ecosystem conversion from supply chains, it will be virtually impossible to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to levels low enough to keep the global average temperature rise below 1.5°C - which is critical to avoiding a climate catastrophe, as pointed out in a technical note prepared by the WWF, and delivered to the UN climate negotiators at COP-27.
 
Wildfires skyrocketed in several states in the Amazon, according to data from the Queimadas Program of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
© Araquém Alcântara/WWF-Brasil
The protection areas that suffered the most pressure in October were the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve in Acre and the Jamanxim National Forest in Pará, both covering 3 km².
© WWF-Brasil/Juvenal Pereira
The worst case is Rondônia, where 1,526 fire outbreaks were recorded between November 1 and 10.
© Israel Valle/ WWF-Brasil
DOE AGORA
DOE AGORA