G7 agrees on €18 million plan for forest fires but Brazil refuses aid

File photo. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attends the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Leaders' meeting on the sidelines of G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, 28 June 2019. [Kremlin pool/EPA/EFE]

On Monday (26 August), the second day of the G7 meeting in Biarritz, France, climate protection was on the agenda. Even though states agreed on a plan to tackle forest fires in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil rejected foreign aid. EURACTIV Germany reports

During the G7 summit, heads of state and government agreed on an emergency programme with almost €18 million to tackle the forest fires in the Amazon region. French President Emmanuel Macron had put the topic on the meeting’s agenda at short notice.

However, only a few hours later, Brazil’s cabinet chief Onyx Lorenzoni rejected the programme. He told a news portal that Brazil was not prepared to take the money and urged Europe to reforest ‘its own backyard’. The Brazilian press office of the presidency confirmed the rejection to AFP.

The Amazon rainforest, which is about twice the area of France (1.2 million km2), has been seeing many forest fires. For Macron, this is “a drama that concerns all of humanity”. That is why states want to provide Brazil with immediate financial and technical help.

The UK has been the largest donor, as it has proposed to deploy €11 million for the emergency fund. The UK also pledged to double its contribution to the international climate fund. Since 2014, the fund has provided $100 billion each year for regions afffected by climate change. The UK will therefore contribute almost €1.6 billion over the next four years.

Macron also stated that a comprehensive reforestation programme for the Amazon region should be agreed at the climate summit in New York in September. Nine countries affected by the forest fires – Brazil, French Guyana, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname, Bolivia, Ecuador and Guyana – should benefit from the programme.

In these areas, forest fires have increased dramatically in recent weeks. Many of the fires are not natural as they result from fire clearances that create free space for animal breeding, for example.

According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, 60% more rainforest was subject to slash-and-burn practices in June compared to the same month last year.

G7 weekend sum-up: Trump deepens divisions by pushing for Russia’s readmission

The readmission of Russia in the Group of Seven most industrialised countries became a bone of contention between Donald Trump and his partners during a summit held in Biarritz (France), as the Europeans and Canada insisted on maintaining the group as a “club of liberal democracies”.

Forest fires for financial interests

Brazil rejecting aid is not that surprising. The country’s right-wing populist president Jair Bolsonaro said such foreign aid had a “colonialist mentality” behind it.

It was not until France and Ireland threatened to block the long-planned trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur states that Brazil started to act. The president deployed 43,000 army troops and two military aircraft to deal with the forest fires over the weekend. Observers accuse Bolsonaro of at least tolerating the fires in his own country and of expecting economic benefits from the clearance.

France and Ireland threaten to vote against EU-Mercosur deal 

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has threatened to vote against a trade deal between the EU and South American trade bloc Mercosur unless Brazil, where wildfires continue to devastate the Amazon rainforest, takes its environmental obligations more seriously.

The trade agreement between the EU and the Mercosur states has thus become a driver of forest fires, criticised Martin Häusling, a spokesman for agricultural policy for the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament.

“Brazil is creating space for grazing land and soy plantations – because Europe is to be supplied with the meat of 600,000 cattle and countless chickens. And that needs space,” Häusling said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was satisfied with the talks on climate protection. Yesterday morning, Merkel held talks with UN Secretary-General António Guterres. It had been agreed that in the run-up to the COP25, the “commitment of as many countries as possible to climate neutrality by 2050 was of utmost importance”.

Trump’s chair remained empty

Further details on the G7 climate session are not yet known.

In addition to fires in the Amazon rainforest, the states at the G7 summit had also debated the protection of the oceans. In July, the EU and Canada launched a joint ocean programme.

Why the ocean should be on the G7 agenda

Surfrider Europe, a French organisation fighting for clean oceans,  is organising an event ahead of the G7 summit in France. The aim is to call for incorporating ocean protection into international negotiations, particularly those concerning climate change. EURACTIV’s partner la Tribune reports.

US President Donald Trump did not take part in the working session on environment issues.

When journalists asked him whether he had been present after the working session, he replied that “the meeting will take place soon” and did not respond to the objection that it had already taken place.

According to media reports, US government representatives had snubbed Macron’s agenda for including “niche issues” such as biodiversity rather than economic issues.

According to Macron, there should be a final summit statement, albeit a minimalist one. At the previous summit, Trump withdrew his support from the joint statement At the last G7 summit, Trump decided not to sign the final summit statement.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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