Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest surged to a 12-year high in 2020, official government data showed on Monday, with destruction soaring since President Jair Bolsonaro took office and weakened environmental enforcement. In 2020, destruction of the world's largest rainforest rose 9.5 per cent from a year earlier to 11,088 square kilometers (2.7 million acres) - seven times the size of London - according to data from Brazil's national space research agency Inpe. That means Brazil will miss its own target, established under a 2009 climate change law, for reducing deforestation to roughly 3,900 square kilometers. The consequences for missing the target are not laid out in the law but could leave the government open to lawsuits. The official annual measure, known as PRODES, is taken by comparing satellite images from the end of July 2020 with those from the beginning of August 2019. These dates are chosen to coincide with the Amazon's dry season, when there is less cloud cover to interfere with the calculations. The Amazon is the world's largest rainforest and its protection is crucial to stopping catastrophic climate change because of the vast amount of carbon dioxide it absorbs. The latest annual destruction is a substantial increase from the 7,536 square kilometers that were deforested in 2018, the year before Mr Bolsonaro took office. While environmentalists blamed the government for the rise, federal officials hailed the figures as a sign of progress in fighting deforestation, as the increase was far lower than the 34 per cent increase recorded in 2019. "While we are not here to celebrate this, it does signify that the efforts we are making are beginning to bear fruit," Vice President Hamilton Mourao told reporters at Inpe headquarters in the Sao Paulo satellite city of Sao Jose dos Campos.