The world’s two biggest palm oil producers, Indonesia and Malaysia, have kept deforestation to near record-low levels, Eco-Business reported from satellite data collected by non-profit organisation Global Forest Watch (GFW).

In Indonesia, deforestation dropped by 64% from 2015-2017 and 2020-2022 – the steepest decline of any tropical country – while forest loss in Malaysia fell by 57%, the fourth biggest drop in the tropics, according to GFW research.

“From a data point of view, I think Indonesia and Malaysia should be included as success stories. They have been for a number of years now, ever since the 2015 fires [linked to the El Niño]. We’re really seeing government and corporate actions coming together to have a positive influence there,” Liz Goldman, senior geographic information system research manager for GFW, was quoted as saying in a report by The Guardian on 7 August.

However, tropical deforestation was accelerating overall despite the progress being made in some countries, the 3 July report said.

Laos and the Philippines saw Southeast Asia’s biggest increases in primary forest loss last year, with year-on-year increases of 31% and 25% respectively, Eco-Business wrote.

The highest increase in tropical deforestation was reported in the West African country of Ghana, which saw year-on-year forest loss increase by a record level of 71%.

GFW data showed that a total of 4.1M ha of tropical primary forest was lost overall in 2022 – a 10% increase compared to the previous year – with the highest rates of deforestation taking place in Brazil under the administration of former President Jair Bolsonaro.

Forest loss from clear-cutting trees reached the highest level in the Brazilian Amazon since 2005, with forest loss in the country accounting for 43% of last year’s total global deforestation, according to GFW data.

In October, Bolsonaro was succeeded by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who had pledged to restore protections for the Brazilian Amazon and achieve zero deforestation in the South American country by 2030, the report said.

Against this backdrop, a key summit on the future of the Amazon rainforest was held in the Brazilian city of Belém in August.

Hosted by the Brazilian president, the two-day summit was attended by leaders from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela, the report said. Representatives from the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Indonesia also attended.

A joint declaration made on 8 August by the eight countries belonging to the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation (Acto) created an alliance to combat deforestation while leaving each country to pursue its own conservation goals, the BBC wrote.

The joint statement, named the Belém declaration, said the new alliance would aim to “prevent the Amazon from reaching a point of no return”.

Climate activists quoted in the 9 August BBC report said the deal lacked concrete measures at a time “when the planet is melting”.

“Temperature records are broken every day, it's not possible that under those circumstances, the eight presidents of the Amazon nations can’t include a line in the declaration stating, in bold letters, that deforestation needs to be zero,” Márcio Astrini of the Climate Observatory group was quoted as saying.

However, with Brazil again recording a significant drop in deforestation since the start of Lula’s current presidency, and Colombia showing signs that its forest loss was slowing, there was cautious optimism, despite continued losses in 2022, The Guardian wrote.