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Cablegate: Brazil: Amazon Deforestation Rate Set to Be the Lowest In

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RR RUEHAST RUEHDH RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHSL RUEHTM
RUEHTRO
DE RUEHBR #1114/01 2511013
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 081013Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5021
INFO RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 8155
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 4505
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 9894
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BRASILIA 001114

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV KGHG KSCA EAGR BR
SUBJECT: BRAZIL: AMAZON DEFORESTATION RATE SET TO BE THE LOWEST IN
TWO DECADES, DESPITE LATE SURGE

BRASILIA 00001114 001.2 OF 002


(U) THIS CABLE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED AND NOT FOR INTERNET
DISTRIBUTION.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The rate of deforestation of the Amazon Forest
decreased 46% for the August 2008-July 2009 annual period compared
to the previous 12-month period based on preliminary data released
by the Brazilian National Space Research Institute (INPE). The
results of high-resolution satellite imagery should be released
soon, and they are likely to show Amazon deforestation to be about
7,000 square kilometers or less. This would be the lowest
deforestation rate since monitoring began in 1988. This good news
may have a modest, positive impact on Brazil's climate change
negotiators by giving a boost to their confidence that the
government could meet targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions
from deforestation, which is the primary source of emissions from
Brazil. However, a sharp rise in the deforestation rate for July
2009 - if it persists - could represent the beginning of a return to
high rates. END SUMMARY

RECORD BREAKING DECLINE IN DEFORESTATION

2. (SBU) On September 1, the Brazilian National Space Research
Institute (INPE) released the final monthly deforestation figure for
the annual year ending July 31, which showed a dramatic 46% decrease
for the year compared with the previous year. The monthly figures
come from the relatively low resolution DETER system, which relies
on the MODIS satellite and the Chinese-Brazilian satellite (CBERS).
The figures for the year from the relatively high resolution PRODES
system using LANDSAT should come out later this month. The more
accurate PRODES figures tend to be about 50 percent greater than the
annual figures using the DETER monthly numbers.

3. (SBU) Environment Minister Carlos Minc announced that based on
the results from the DETER system that the annual rate would be the
lowest in two decades. It is very likely that he is right. Since
Brazil began releasing annual deforestation figures in 1988, the
annual figure has fluctuated between a high of nearly 30,000 square
kilometers in the 12-month period ending July 31, 1995 to around
11,000 square kilometers in 1991 and 2007. Assuming the PRODES
figure is roughly 50% larger than the 4,375 square kilometers DETER
figure, then the annual rate should be about 7,000 square kilometers
or less. The DETER figure would have to be low by over 100% for the
annual figure this year to break the 10,000 square kilometers mark,
which would be remarkable.

DISTURBING SPIKE IN JULY

4. (SBU) While the total for the year came in much lower than last
year's, the monthly rate of deforestation shot up in July 2009.
DETER found a total area of 836.5 square kilometers, which
represents the highest number for the year and a rate that presented
a 160% increased compared to the previous month. Further, the July
2009 figure was more than three times as high as that for July 2008.
Minister Minc said that July historically comes in with a high
number because the cloud coverage lessens and the satellite can see
deforestation from earlier months that had been obscured by clouds.
"The deforestation had already taken place, but was not detected by
the satellite images in the previous months due to the clouds that
covered most of the area", he explained.

5. (SBU) COMMENT. Minister Minc correctly points out that July
tends to have less cloud coverage which allows DETER to tally
earlier undetected deforestation. However, the July report
indicated that much of the deforestation detected in that month were
in areas that had not been blocked by cloud coverage in earlier
months. This would suggest the deforestation took place in July
itself and not earlier. The sour note in the month of July - by
itself - does not significantly detract from the overall positive
news about a sharp decline for the annual period. If this persists,
then Brazil may be returning to an era of high deforestation rates.
END COMMENT.

POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS FOR SHARP DECLINE

6. (SBU) Various factors contributed to the decline in the
deforestation rate. Minister Minc is categorical about the
principal reason behind the decline in the deforestation rate. He
told the press, "90% of the decrease in deforestation rate took
place due to law enforcement actions taken by the government." The
government has made numerous raids and thousands of seizures of
illegal timber and cattle on illegally cleared land, he said.

7. (SBU) Independent analysts have pointed out that the
deforestation rate has historically been closely linked to the
demand for beef and, to a lesser extent, soybeans. The drop in
demand for beef and soybeans associated with the economic crisis may
have been a contributing factor in explaining the lower

BRASILIA 00001114 002.2 OF 002


deforestation rate, though it probably was not the dominant one
because changes in commodity prices take time to have a major effect
on farmer decision-making. In addition, this 12-month period was a
particularly rainy one, which would have impeded efforts to clear
the forest through fire.

8. (SBU) COMMENT. The good news about the sharp decline in the
deforestation rate may have a spillover effect on the GOB's position
in international negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on
Climate Change (UNFCCC). The GOB negotiators may now be more
willing to accept binding or aspirational targets for reducing
greenhouse gas emissions - or for reducing deforestation - now that
they have had some success in this area. Last year's rise in the
deforestation rate compared with 2007 despite increased enforcement
efforts likely surprised the GOB and undermined their confidence
that they could agree to targets for reducing deforestation.
Nonetheless, other powerful factors constraining the GOB
negotiators, especially pressure from other G-77 countries not to
agree to targets and avoiding possibly limiting economic growth,
remain in place. In sum, the good news on the deforestation will
likely have a modest, positive effect on the GOB's negotiating
position. END COMMENT.

KUBISKE

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