Amazon fires prompt alarm in Europe and anger at Brazil’s govern­ment //

The Peterborough Examiner - - Front Page -

LON­DON — Euro­pean lead­ers have re­acted with grow­ing fear and anger to the fires rav­aging Brazil’s rain­for­est, call­ing it a world­wide cri­sis that is ac­cel­er­at­ing global warm­ing — and one that Brazil’s leader ap­pears un­will­ing to com­bat.

Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron of France went so far, on Fri­day, as to ac­cuse Pres­i­dent Jair Bol­sonaro of Brazil of ly­ing about be­ing com­mit­ted to fight­ing cli­mate change and pro­tect­ing the Amazon for­est.

As a re­sult, Macron said, he would try to kill a ma­jor trade deal be­tween Europe and South Amer­ica that has been years in the mak­ing.

Bol­sonaro said on Fri­day he was plan­ning to send the mil­i­tary to con­tain the blazes.

Macron’s state­ment es­ca­lated a se­ries of sharp com­ments and ac­cu­sa­tions he has traded with Bol­sonaro, an un­usu­ally harsh ex­change be­tween the lead­ers of two democ­ra­cies.

The French pres­i­dent and Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel of Ger­many both said the Amazon fires should be added to the agenda of the Group of 7 sum­mit be­ing held this week­end and that Bol­sonaro replied by telling them to keep their noses out of Brazil’s busi­ness.

The fires have prompted a wide­spread back­lash against Brazil and its far-right pres­i­dent, who has cut back on pro­tec­tion of wild lands and wants to open more rain­for­est to farm­ing and ranch­ing.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and celebri­ties have called for a boy­cott of the coun­try, and Ger­many and Nor­way have halted pay­ments to a $1.2 bil­lion Amazon con­ser­va­tion pro­gram af­ter Bol­sonaro’s govern­ment in­ter­fered with its lead­er­ship.

While many of the fires have been set by farm­ers on lands that have been pre­vi­ously cleared, oth­ers are set by peo­ple who want to clear rain for­est anew. The num­ber of fires has in­creased sharply this year, and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists say Bol­sonaro’s govern­ment has en­abled and even en­cour­aged the de­struc­tion, which it de­nies.

Bol­sonaro claimed this week that non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions had set the fires to make his ad­min­is­tra­tion look bad, in re­tal­i­a­tion for hav­ing their govern­ment grants cut, but con­ceded he had no ev­i­dence for the ac­cu­sa­tion. He said his coun­try did not have the re­sources to fight the fires ef­fec­tively.

The Amazon forests are one of the world’s most pow­er­ful forces for re­mov­ing car­bon diox­ide, the pri­mary green­house gas, from the at­mos­phere. In ad­di­tion, de­for­esta­tion threat­ens in­dige­nous peo­ples and wildlife found only in that re­gion.

On Thurs­day, Macron tweeted: “Our house is burn­ing. Lit­er­ally. The Amazon rain for­est — the lungs that pro­duce 20 per cent of our planet’s oxy­gen — is on fire. It is an in­ter­na­tional cri­sis.”

He said the Group of 7 mem­bers should take up the mat­ter at their meet­ing, which be­gins Sat­ur­day in Biar­ritz, France.

Bol­sonaro ac­cused Macron of try­ing to use the is­sue “for per­sonal po­lit­i­cal gain.” The idea of ma­jor pow­ers dis­cussing a Brazil­ian prob­lem with­out in­clud­ing Brazil, which is not a Group of 7 mem­ber, “evokes a mis­placed colo­nial­ist mind­set.”

But it soon be­came ev­i­dent that Macron was not alone. The United Na­tions sec­re­tary-gen­eral, An­to­nio Guter­res, said, “in the midst of the global cli­mate cri­sis, we can­not af­ford more dam­age to a ma­jor source of oxy­gen and bio­di­ver­sity.”

On Fri­day, St­ef­fen Seib­ert, a spokesper­son for Merkel, said at a me­dia briefing that “the ex­tent of the fires in the Amazon area is shock­ing and threat­en­ing, not only for Brazil and the other affected coun­tries, but also for the whole world.”


Brazil Pres­i­dent Jair Bol­sonaro, left, at a mil­i­tary cer­e­mony Fri­day, re­port­edly told lead­ers to keep their noses out of Brazil’s busi­ness.

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