- The Brazilian government has stated that it will reject any offer of aid from the G7 countries for tackling fires in the Amazon rainforest. French President Emmanuel Macron hosted the G7 summit that ended this Monday and announced $22m (£18m) would be released for aiding the Amazon. Although Brazilian officials gave no particular reason for turning down the money, President Jair Bolsonaro has openly accused France of treating Brazil like a colony.
His Defense Minister held that in spite of the worldwide view, the fires in the Amazon were not out of control.
Mr. Bolsonaro’s Chief of Staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, told the Globo news website about the G7 offer of aid, “Thanks, but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe. Macron cannot even avoid a predictable fire in a church that is part of the world’s heritage, and he wants to give us lessons for our country?” hinting at the fire that destroyed Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris in April.
He also claimed that Brazil could teach “any nation” how to protect native forests.
According to Brazil’s space research agency, Inpe, a record number of fires are burning in Brazil, mostly in the Amazon and President Macron went on to describe the fires as an “international crisis” last week.
Mr. Bolsonaro had earlier admitted that his government lacked the resources to fight the record number of fires in the Amazon while critics accused him of making deforestation worse in the Amazon through his anti-environmental policies.
Greenpeace France has designated the G7’s response to the crisis as “inadequate given the urgency and magnitude of this environmental disaster”, in an official French statement.
On Monday, a relief fund backed by actor Leonardo DiCaprio pledged $5m towards helping the rainforest.
Pledged Relief Fund
On Monday, the aid for $22m was announced when the leaders of the G7 – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US – concluded their meet in Biarritz, France. Mr. Macron stated that the funds would be made available instantly – mainly to pay for more fire-fighting planes and that France would also “offer concrete support with the military in the region”.
But Mr. Bolsonaro, who has been embroiled in a public row with Mr. Macron in the last few weeks, alleged that the French leader was launching “unreasonable and gratuitous attacks against the Amazon region”, and “hiding his intentions behind the idea of an ‘alliance’ of G7 countries”. In spite of Mr. Bolsonaro’s remarks, Ricardo Salles, his Environment Minister, had initially told reporters that the funding was welcome.
Remedial Action by Brazil
On Friday, amidst mounting international pressure, President Bolsonaro finally engaged the military to help tackle the blazes. Reportedly 44,000 soldiers have been deployed to combat the fires and related environmental crimes in the Amazon while military operations are ongoing in seven states to provide assistance to local governments.
On Saturday, Donald Tusk, the EU Council President expressed his view that it was hard to imagine the bloc approving the long-awaited EU-Mercosur agreement, a milestone trade deal between EU and South American nations, while Brazil failed to control the blazes.
Wildfires are frequent in the dry season in Brazil, but satellite data released by Inpe exposed an increase of 85% this year. BBC analysis confirmed that the surging number of fires being recorded also coincides with a sharp reduction in fines for environmental violations.
Amazon rainforest helps fight climate change
Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world and thus a vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming. It is dubbed as the “lungs of the world” owing to its massive capacity of absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. The rainforest extends across several countries, but the majority of it lies within Brazil and is home to around three million species of plants and animals and a million indigenous people.