Bolsonaro claims about his environmental protection record at the U.N. General Assembly meeting stretches the truth

President Bolsonaro of Brazil was the first head of state to address this year’s UN General Assembly in New York. He spoke to the General Assembly on September 21st, 2021. At one point in his speech, Bolsonaro spoke about the progress Brazil is making in terms of environmental conservation, particularly the Amazon rain forest. In his comments on the environment, we find his claim to be only partially true.

After asking, “Which other country in the world has a policy of environmental protection like ours,” President Bolsonaro made the following claim…

In the Amazon, deforestation was reduced by 32% in August in comparison with August the previous year… 84% of the forest is intact.

According to BBC News in an article posted in November 2020, which got its data from Brazilian non-governmental organization Climate Observatory NGO, deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has surged to its highest level since 2008. A total of 4,281 square miles of rainforest were destroyed from August 2019 to July 2020, a 9.5% increase from the previous year. Bolsonaro took office in January 2019. While it may be technically true that in August 2021 the number was lower than August 2020, the numbers are still way higher than the period before Bolsanaro took office. Bolsanaro is cherry-picking data to make his case.

As reported by The Guardian

Between August 2020 and July 2021, the rainforest lost 10,476 square kilometers – an area nearly seven times bigger than greater London and 13 times the size of New York City, according to data released by Imazon, a Brazilian research institute that has been tracking the Amazon deforestation since 2008. The figure is 57% higher than in the previous year and is the worst since 2012.

According to Imazon…

The devastation in the Brazilian Amazon has been running at its fastest pace in 10 years. Only in July, 2,095 km² was deforested, 80% more than in the same month in 2020, according to Imazon data. This area is bigger than the city of São Paulo and represents the decade’s worst index for July.

According to Brazilian National Institute of Space Research (INPE),  just over 80% of the Amazon is intact.

Although Bolsonaro has weakened government environmental agencies combating illegal mining and logging, he has deployed thousands of soldiers to combat illegal deforestation and fires. President Bolsonaro has been blamed for encouraging development in the Amazon rainforest and cutting funding to government agencies that enforce environmental regulations.

A study published in Environmental Research Letters in 2021 shows that less than 10% of carbon emissions from deforestation in the Amazon has been offset by the growth of new forest. Brazil, which contains more than half of the Amazon forest, is responsible for the majority of deforestation and its associated CO2 emissions.