São Paulo, Brazil – The Brazilian government wants billions of dollars in advance from the United States and other rich countries to protect its Amazon rainforest, a crucial natural bulwark in the fight against climate change.
But indigenous leaders, climate activists and a group of U.S. Democratic senators have warned U.S. President Joe Biden not to hand over money to the government of Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right populist president of Brazil, under whom the deforestation has skyrocketed.
“The current Brazilian government is just not trustworthy,” Sonia Guajajara, coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples (APIB) of Brazil, an indigenous rights collective, told Al Jazeera.
The two administrations had hoped to strike a deal to be announced when the White House hosts the Leaders’ Climate Summit on April 22 and 23, people familiar with the talks said. But this week, hopes of a deal seemed to stagnate.
Bolsonaro’s Environment Minister Ricardo Salles told Reuters news agency on Friday evening that he did not expect a deal to be announced at next week’s summit, but that the talks with the United States would continue.
“President Jair Bolsonaro’s re-engagement to eliminate illegal deforestation is important. We look forward to immediate action and engagement with indigenous peoples and civil society so that this announcement can produce tangible results, ”Special Climate Envoy John Kerry tweeted on Friday.
Meanwhile, Raoni Metuktire, one of Brazil’s most iconic indigenous leaders, posted a video urging Biden to ignore Bolsonaro’s promise to reduce illegal deforestation to zero by 2030 if his government receives state funding. -United.
Environmentalists noted that the 2030 target was already promised by Brazil when signing the Paris Agreement in 2015 under then Brazilian presidency Dilma Rousseff. But since then deforestation has has continued to climb year after year.
Fifteen US Senators, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, also sent a letter to Biden on Friday, warning that any aid given to Brazil must be conditional on the results of reducing deforestation.
Senators referred to a 2019 Human Rights Watch report, Rainforest Mafias, to note that “deforestation was largely driven by powerful criminal networks that resort to intimidation and violence – with near impunity – against those who seek to defend the rainforest ”.
“President Bolsonaro’s rhetoric and policies have effectively given the green light to dangerous criminals operating in the Amazon, allowing them to significantly expand their activities,” they said.
Brazilian deforestation in the Amazon remains well below its 2004 peak, but has risen sharply in the two years since Bolsonaro took office, during which time the president slashed budgets for environmental protection and of the natives and stacked the agencies with staunch allies.
In 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon deforestation peaks in 12 years with 11,088 square kilometers (4,281 square miles) of logged forest, according to the National Space Agency of Brazil – an increase of 9.5% from the previous year.
Meanwhile, March 2021 was the worst March in recent history with 367.61 square kilometers (141.94 square miles) destroyed, a 12.4% increase from the previous year. The month marks the end of heavy rains in much of the region and the start of the dry season, when loggers, farmers and land grabbers traditionally clear land ahead of the August fire season.
The increase in deforestation and forest fires has led to clashes between Bolsonaro and world leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, and prompted threats of boycott and divestment from European companies and managers. funds.
During a US presidential debate in September last year, Biden suggested that Brazil could receive $ 20 billion to “stop demolishing the forest,” but warned of “significant economic consequences”. he did not do it, comments Bolsonaro, qualified at the time as “disastrous”. .
Salles, Brazil’s Environment Minister, told Estado de S Paulo newspaper earlier this month that with $ 1 billion a year from the United States and other countries, Brazil could reduce the 40% deforestation.
But environmentalists scoffed at Salles’ request, pointing out that $ 540,000 (BR 3 billion) has been idle since 2019 in the Amazon Amazon fund, provided primarily by Norway and Germany for projects to reduce deforestation. .
“If reducing deforestation was really their priority, they would use money from the Amazon fund,” Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Brazilian Climate Observatory, a network of 50 civil society groups, told Al Jazeera.