News Espace membre FR EN ES Search
  1. Home
  2. News
  3. Deforestation continues during the Covid-19 pandemic

News

All news

Deforestation continues during the Covid-19 pandemic

During summer 2019, the world watched as the forests of Amazonia were destroyed by catastrophic fires. The viral propagation of the images and the stupor they caused shed light on the reality and impacts of deforestation. This awareness was followed by strong criticism of President Bolsonaro and the lack of action by his government regarding the environment. Summer 2020 has been very different. The Covid-19 pandemic has even had the reverse effect, acting as a “smokescreen” to mask the recurrence of deforestation.

A solution of survival in a paralysed economy

 

The figures couldn’t be clearer: 2020 is characterised by a significant increase in deforestation in Asia, South America and Africa. In Brazil, the INPE – the National Space Research Institute – shared the figures on deforestation for the first six months of 2020. They were the highest since the statistical studies in this region first began in 1974. The case of Indonesia also illustrates this trend. A major producer of palm oil, Indonesia has seen a 50% increase in forests cleared during the first 20 weeks of 2020 in comparison to the same period last year.

The figures collected by Global Land Analysis and Discovery (GLAD), from satellite data, confirm the exceptional progression of forest clearance. This can first be explained by the transfer by certain households to income gained from deforestation. Indeed, the pandemic put a brake on national economies all over the world, without however providing solutions to populations deprived of income. Therefore, some resorted to illegal felling to survive, whether by using cleared land or by selling the wood felled. Admittedly, this behaviour is that of people trying to survive, but it is dangerous in the long term as we know that forest clearing is responsible for large forest fires, destructive for both humans and the environment. In addition to the toxic fumes and CO2 emissions, scientists have also linked deforestation to infectious diseases.

A devastating opportunity

 

Far from being the opportunity to rethink the links that exist between forests, the environment and human beings, the pandemic has been used as a smokescreen by others. With attention being diverted by the coronavirus, both small and large actors such as governments have benefited from the situation to leave the coast clear for deforestation.


The case of Brazil is a good example.

Far from being the opportunity to rethink the links that exist between forests, the environment and human beings, the pandemic has been used as a smokescreen by others. With attention being diverted by the coronavirus, both small and large actors such as governments have benefited from the situation to leave the coast clear for deforestation. The case of Brazil is a good example. Since his election, President Bolsonaro has impeded measures to protect the environment, for example, by reducing the budgets of administrations dedicated to its conservation (inspection, fire prevention agencies, etc.). In parallel with official actions, the government’s discourse and position have, implicitly, made it easier to clear forest illegally. In particular, the federal prosecutor has demanded an inquiry into the words of the Minister of the Environment, Mr Ricardo Salles, who presented Covid-19 as an opportunity to reduce restrictions.


Although no penal action has yet been brought against the Minister, the figures presented by the Agência Pùblica follow the same trend. Between January and July, the number of fines for crimes against the forest environment has fallen by 40% in comparison to the same period last year, reaching the lowest figure for the last 10 years.

The question is henceforth to know whether the end of the pandemic will lead to an even greater increase of deforestation. Either companies will want to produce more to offset their losses, or the economic crisis will reduce demand.

Forests victim to fire elsewhere in the world

 

In Siberia, summer 2020 was characterised by record high temperatures with rises from 5 to 10°C in June compared to the average, reported the Copernicus Climate Change Service, a programme set up by the European Commission. The occurrence of unusual temperatures began in December 2019 and continued throughout spring 2020. These meteorological events, clearly visible signs of climate change, dry the soils and vegetation, increasing the likelihood of fires. Thus, according to Greenpeace 21 million hectares have burned since the beginning of the year.

 

In California, fires have ravaged several hundred thousand hectares over several weeks. These conflagrations are caused by higher temperatures, increasingly long droughts and violent storms. Reinforcements arrived at the beginning of September, though many people were still being evacuated.

Mettez à jour votre navigateur pour consulter ce site