Amazon deforestation lowest in 22 years

Dec. 1, 2010 at 5:16 PM

BRASILIA, Brazil, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon region is at its lowest rate in 22 years due to better monitoring and police control, the country's government says.

Satellite monitoring indicated some 2,490 square miles of rainforest were cleared between August 2009 and July 2010, a drop of 14 percent from the previous 12 months, the BBC reported.

The figures were "fantastic," Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said, adding she would be "proud" to present the results at the U.N. Climate Change Conference presently being held in Cancun, Mexico.

Brazil was well on course to its target of reducing deforestation to its annual target of 1,900 square miles by 2017, she said.

The new rate is far lower than the peak of 10,700 square miles in 2004.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said the reduction showed Brazil was "keeping its promises" on tackling global warming, the BBC reported.

The cutting and burning of trees in the Amazon has made Brazil a major contributor of the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming, with deforestation thought to be responsible for about 20 percent of CO2 emissions worldwide.

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