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Brazil Surpasses 2020 Target to Cut Deforestation Emissions

FILE - Agents of the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources check a man at in illegal logging camp during "Operation Green Wave," Aug. 21, 2017. Trusting that every effort will help to save rainforest, Environment Minister Jose Sarney Filho said this week that the preliminary data showed a drop from last year. "Everything indicates that the curve is falling," he said. "We're optimistic."

Brazil cut its greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation in 2017 to levels below its internationally agreed 2020 climate change targets, the country’s Environment Ministry said Thursday.

Brazil reduced its emission from deforestation in the Amazon rainforest by 610 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), compared to its 2020 target of 564 million tons. In the Cerrado savanna, emissions were reduced 170 million tons of carbon dioxide versus a target of 104 million tons.

The Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest, and the Cerrado, South America’s biggest savanna, soak up vast amounts of carbon dioxide, and their preservation is seen as vital to the fight against climate change.

But destruction of the forest releases large quantities of CO2, one of the main greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. Large-scale Amazon deforestation has made Brazil one of the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters, because of fires and the spread of agriculture and cattle ranching.

The 2020 emission goals were set out in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord to combat climate change. Under the more ambitious Paris Agreement in 2015 on climate change, Brazil has set goals for further steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions for 2025 and 2030.

“The policy message is that we can and should remain in the Paris Agreement (because) it is possible to effectively implement the commitments that have been made,” said Thiago Mendes, secretary of climate change in the Environment Ministry.