Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest has soared to its highest level since 2006.
That’s according to an annual report by the Brazilian government - which undercuts President Jair Bolsonaro's assurances that the country is curbing illegal logging.
The data showed deforestation of the world’s largest rainforest up 22 percent from August 2020 through July 2021.
The surging destruction comes despite Bolsonaro's efforts to show his government is serious about protecting the Amazon, considered critical to staving off catastrophic climate change.
At the U.N. COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in early November, Brazil's government pledged to end illegal deforestation by 2028, a target that would require aggressive annual reductions in destruction.
But the report by the Brazil research agency INPE showed deforestation rising in each of the last four cycles – a first since at least 2000.
Brazilian advocacy group Climate Observatory pointed out on social media that the report was dated Oct. 27th – which it said meant that (quote), "The government went to COP26 knowing the deforestation data and hid it."
A source with knowledge of the matter confirmed that the government had the data in hand prior to the UN summit.
The data also casts doubt on Brazil's signing on to a global pledge with more than 100 other nations to eliminate deforestation worldwide by 2030.
Brazil was seen as crucial to that pact, as the Amazon's trees absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide that would otherwise warm the planet.
If destroyed, some scientists warn huge amounts of carbon would be released, virtually ensuring the world cannot hit the targets laid out to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Brazil’s Environment Minister told reporters the data did not reflect recently stepped-up enforcement against illegal deforestation, while conceding the government must do more to fight the destruction.