Brazil has requested USD$1 billion in financial support from western nations to reduce deforestation in the Amazon. According to the country’s environment minister, Brazil has already done enough to preserve the Amazon to warrant this financial support.
What is Happening?
- Environment minister Ricardo Salles says the money will be used to reduce deforestation in the world’s largest rainforest by up to 40% over the next 12 months. He told the Financial Times, “We already have a lot of results that could justify the receiving of something, if not everything, but something upfront.”
- Of the $1 billion, a third would pay for command and control activities, such as enforcing environmental laws and cracking down on illegal logging and mining. The rest would be dedicated to economic development and the creation of jobs in the Amazon.
- Foreign diplomats maintain that Brazil must show results in reducing surging levels of deforestation in the Amazon before it receives any financial support. The message by Salles was conveyed to the Brazilian government in a meeting last week between several western ambassadors and Carlos França, Brazil’s new foreign minister.
- Since president Jair Bolsonaro took power in 2019, deforestation in the Amazon has risen to its highest level in more than 10 years. Last year more than 11 000 sq km of rainforest was destroyed, an area seven times the size of London.
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- However, Salles maintains that Brazil needs cash now to start a “positive cycle.” He says, “If you don’t have the [resources] to begin operations, then the operations cannot begin. You need to have at least part of [the] necessary funds in order to start a positive cycle of taking care of the region from both [an enforcement] and a socio-economic perspective,” he said.
- Salles has been accused of wanting to tear down the rainforest to make way for commercial activity, but he points to Brazil’s historical preservation of the rainforest as grounds to receive cash now, saying, “There is a lot of things already done. We have preserved 84% of Amazon forest. I don’t see any other relevant country with the same rate of preservation [of their forests].” At the height of the coronavirus pandemic in Brazil last year, leaked comments emerged in which Salles said the government should “take advantage of the public’s distraction by the coronavirus pandemic” to push through laws to deregulate the environment.
- Brazil has received hundreds of millions of dollars in the past for environmental support, including through the Amazon Fund, an initiative of the Norwegian and German governments. However, this has been frozen since 2019 due to Brazil’s increasing rates of deforestation. Furthermore, envoys from other countries in the region say that Brazil’s environment enforcement agencies had historically been effective at combating deforestation with much smaller budgets. However, since the Bolsonaro administration came to power, these agencies’ budgets have been reduced by almost 30% each year, making it difficult for them to fulfil their mandate.
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