By Lisandra Paraguassu and Jake Spring
BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazil needs to cut illegal deforestation by between 15% and 20% every year to eliminate it by 2030, Vice President Hamilton Mourao said on Friday, referring to a goal set by President Jair Bolsonaro in a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden this week.
Bolsonaro is set to attend a U.S. climate summit hosted by Biden next week amid international pressure to slash deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, which surged to a 12-year high in 2020 as an area 14 times the size of New York City was destroyed, government data show.
Brazil and the United States have been negotiating since February on a possible deal to cooperate on tackling deforestation. The talks have reached an impasse with Brazil asking for money up front and the U.S. wanting certain results first.
Bolsonaro met one of the U.S. demands in a letter to Biden on Wednesday, committing to reach zero deforestation by 2030. Left-wing former President Dilma Rousseff had previously pledged the country to reach that goal, although Bolsonaro's weakening of environmental enforcement had called into question the current govenrment's commitment to it.
The U.S. is additionally asking for an immediate reduction in deforestation in 2021 and an increase in environmental enforcement.
A 15-20% annual reduction in deforestation from 2020 levels would reduce the rate of destruction to between 1,191 square kilometers and 2,183 square kilometers (460-843 square miles) in the year 2030, according to a Reuters calculation based on government data.
That's less than half of the official record low of 4,571 square kilometers in 2012.
(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu and Jake Spring; Editing by Stephen Eisenhammer and David Holmes)