Deforestation of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest fell in the 12 months to July, according to government data released on Wednesday, retreating from the highest level in 15 years under outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro.

The damage decreased by 11 percent from the previous year to 11,568 square kilometers, according to annual data released by the Brazilian Space Research Agency, Enppi. That still represented Amazon deforestation at a higher rate than in any year from 2009 to 2020, reports a local Arabic daily quoting Reuters.

“It’s better to have a lower number than a higher number, but it’s still a very high number, the second highest in 13 years,” said Marcio Astrini, head of the Climate Observatory group.

The Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, absorbs massive amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere as a result of deforestation.

There has been no change in Bolsonaro’s policy of weakening environmental agencies to explain the decline in deforestation, said Anne Alencar, director of science at the Amazon Institute for Environmental Research.

It’s impossible to know immediately why deforestation has declined, Astrini and Alencar said, adding that weather or economic cycles may be factors.

Brazil’s President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has vowed to reverse spiraling deforestation under Bolsonaro, who has slashed spending and personnel to enforce environmental laws.

The average deforestation in the past four years under Bolsonaro was about 60 percent higher than in the previous four years.

Bolsonaro’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We are already seeing the consequences of deforestation,” said Mariana Napolitano, director of science at the non-profit WWF-Brazil. There are more droughts, shorter rainy seasons, more fires and higher temperatures.”

And Lula may face an uphill battle to show deforestation has declined in its first year.

“In the first year of Lula’s government, it will be very difficult to significantly reduce deforestation to pre-Bolsonaro levels,” Astrini said.

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