US calls Brazil’s Bolsonaro to act in Amazon protection summit

  • In his 2019 campaign, Joe Biden vowed to raise USD $20 billion in private and public funds to avoid “losing the Amazon” and warned of “serious economic repercussions.”
  • In a crucial year for international climate action, the officials of Biden and Bolsonaro are now discussing an agreement.
  • The two leaders will talk today (22nd April) at a climate summit organized by the United States.
  • The US believes Brazil can achieve a “real decrease” in deforestation by the end of the 2021 fire season.

The US government faces a moral dilemma if it is to fulfill its electoral pledge to protect the Amazon rainforest without funding Jair Bolsonaro, whose government oversaw the rise in deforestation in Brazil.

In his 2019 campaign, Joe Biden vowed to raise USD $20 billion in private and public funds to avoid “losing the Amazon” and warned of “serious economic repercussions.”

In a crucial year for international climate action, the officials of Biden and Bolsonaro are now discussing an agreement. The two leaders will talk today (22nd April) at a climate summit organized by the United States.

A US Department official said in a recent article that they are working on tangible measures to decrease illegal deforestation. The US believes Brazil can achieve a “real decrease” in deforestation by the end of the 2021 fire season.

Last week, 8 Brazilian indigenous leaders met online with US negotiator Jonathan Pershing and US ambassador Todd Chapman. The conference was attended by Dinamam Tuxá, executive coordinator of the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB).

“We shared a lot of our concerns about climate change and the current situation surrounding forest conservation,” Tuxá said to Climate Home News. Speaking of the role that indigenous people have in forest protection and tackling climate change, Tuxá added that it was the time to listen to indigenous people. ” 

For quite some time, indigenous leaders in Brazil urged US companies to avoid purchasing Amazon deforestation-related goods and pleaded to the US to pressure the Brazilian government to empower indigenous people.

So far, over 200 Brazilian NGOs have warned the US against giving money to Bolsonaro’s government without strict conditions.

Brazil’s environmental response

Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian President, has been known to make derogatory remarks about indigenous people regularly. He said in the 1990s, indigenous communities in Brazil had to be “decimated as those in the USA”. 

Bolsonaro promoted mining in protected indigenous areas, refused to give indigenous people land rights and his policies failed to address the catastrophic Covid-19 pandemic, which affected indigenous communities severely. The site Global Witness reported that 24 Brazilian environmental campaigners, including indigenous leaders, were killed in 2019.

Furthermore, an outcry from Brazilians to fire Environment Minister Ricardo Salles was trending on Twitter with the hashtag # ForaSalles (OutSalles).

Salles’ expectations for a USD $1bn aid to reduce deforestation by 30-40% was met with a lot of controversy. One person to speak out was Izabella Teixera, former environment minister (2010/2016). She mentioned that giving $1bn a year in aid would not solve the problem and added that Brazil had financial support to decrease deforestation through the Amazon Fund, until the Bolsonaro government’s policies led major donors Norway and Germany to stop their support.

Main photo: Amazônia Real from Manaus AM, Brasil – Desmatamento e Queimdas 2020

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