Leaders of G7 agree to help Amazon countries fight wildfires
The G7 countries have agreed to an immediate $20m (£16m) aid package to help Amazon countries fight wildfires and launch a longer-term global initiative to protect the rainforest.
The assistance plan, announced by the French and Chilean presidents on Monday, would involve a programme of reforestation, to be unveiled at the UN general assembly meeting next month.
“We must respond to the call of the forest which is burning today in the Amazon,” said Emmanuel Macron of France, after a meeting of the G7 major industrialised democracies on the climate emergency near the end of a three-day summit in Biarritz.
However, it was unclear on Monday evening whether the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, would cooperate with the plan. He sent out a string of tweets within minutes of the G7 announcement, criticising Macron for treating Brazil as if was “a colony or a no-man’s land”.
Macron conceded that Donald Trump had not attended the G7 session on climate change, biodiversity and the oceans, but he said that “his team was there”, and that the US supported the initiative.
Satellite data has recorded more than 41,000 fires in the Amazon region so far this year – more than half of those this month alone. Experts say most of the fires are started by farmers or ranchers clearing existing farmland.
Environmental experts say the policies of the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, reducing environmental protections, have fuelled accelerating deforestation and contributed to the intensity of the wildfires. France and Ireland have threatened to block a EU trade deal with Brazil and three other Latin American countries if Bolsonaro does not change course.
Macron’s criticism sparked an angry response from Bolsonaro, who accused him of colonialism. Under international pressure, however, Bolsonaro finally deployed two C-130 Hercules aircraft on Sunday to douse the fires.
The reforestation plan, to be discussed at the UN next year, would require the consent of Bolsonaro and local communities.
The Chilean president, Sebastián Piñera, a Bolsonaro ally on the political right, said he was in constant touch with the Brazilian president and the two leaders spoke as recently as Sunday. He said he was confident he would be able to convince him about the need for reforestation of the Amazon.
“I will discuss that with him. But I think that it is absolutely necessary. And I tend to think that he will agree,” Piñera told the Guardian in an interview at the summit.