Smoke from illegal fires lit by farmers rises over a river in Careiro, Amazonas state, in September 2023 / © AFP
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon hit a record low for the month of November, according to figures released Friday, as President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's government touted its environmental record at the UN climate talks.
Satellite monitoring detected 201 square kilometers (78 square miles) of forest cover destroyed in Brazil's share of the world's biggest rainforest last month, a drop of 64 percent from November 2022, according to data from the national space research agency's DETER surveillance program.
It was the lowest on record for the month since monitoring began in 2015.
Veteran leftist Lula, who returned to office in January vowing "Brazil is back" in the climate fight after surging deforestation under far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2022), proudly presented his administration's "dramatic" progress on curbing the destruction of the Amazon this week at the COP28 climate talks in Dubai.
Lula has vowed to achieve zero deforestation by 2030.
But the good news on the rainforest -- whose carbon-absorbing trees are key to the climate race -- was offset by record-high deforestation for November in the Cerrado savanna, a biodiverse region below the Amazon that has been hit by a recent surge in clear-cutting, mainly for farming.
There, deforestation rose 238 percent from November 2022, to 572 square kilometers.
Increased environmental policing by Lula's government has "drastically reduced deforestation in the Amazon, though many challenges remain," said Ana Carolina Crisostomo of the World Wildlife Fund's Brazil office.
But "it is urgent to prioritize action in the Cerrado," she told AFP.