NEWS
27/08/2019 1:31 PM IST

Amazon Rainforest Fires: Brazil Set To Reject $20m G7 Fund

President Jair Bolsonaro has complained that the gesture is "as if we were a colony or someone's territory."

Brazil looks set to reject a $20million fund from the G7 countries over the Amazon fires.

“We appreciate [the offer], but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe,” Onyx Lorenzoni, the chief of staff to President Jair Bolsonaro, told the G1 news website.

Bolsonaro himself has said a G7 agreement on fighting the Amazon fires treats the region like a colony.

The response came in a tweet Monday morning after French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the Group of Seven had agreed on a $20m firefighting fund as well as a long-term initiative to protect the rainforest.

Associated Press
A fire burns trees and brush along the road to Jacunda National Forest, near the city of Porto Velho in the Vila Nova Samuel region which is part of Brazil's Amazon

Bolsonaro tweeted: “We cannot accept that a president, Macron, makes ludicrous and unnecessary attacks on Amazonia, nor that he makes his intentions with an idea of an ‘alliance’ of G7 countries to save the Amazon, as if we were a colony or someone’s territory.”

At the same time, Macron savaged the Brazilian president for “extraordinarily disrespectful comments” about his wife and reiterated that Bolsonaro had lied about commitments to deforestation.

Bolsonaro, in turn, said Macron’s “ludicrous and unnecessary attacks on the Amazon” were unacceptable and accused him of treating the region “as if we were a colony”.

Macron also said on Monday that he was considering launching an international campaign to help sub-Saharan African countries fight fires raging in the area that are being compared to the Amazon rainforest fires.

Macron tweeted from the Group of Seven summit: “The forest is also burning in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We are studying the possibility of launching an initiative similar to what we just announced for the Amazon.”

Macron said earlier on Monday that G7 nations are committing 20 million US dollars to countries in the Amazon region to help fight the fires and help with “re-forestation”.

Environmental groups have expressed concern about massive fires in African countries including Angola and DR Congo that are getting less attention than those in the Amazon, which have caused worldwide concern because of their potential impact on climate change.

The funds are widely seen as critical support, but a relatively small amount for dealing with an environmental crisis of such scale threatening what Macron called “the lungs of the planet.”

More than $1 billion, for example, has been paid into a fund to help the Amazon in the past decade. And major donors Germany and Norway recently cut donations to Brazilian forestry projects, saying Bolsonaro’s administration isn’t committed to curbing deforestation.

Bolsonaro has suggested the West is angling to exploit Brazil’s natural resources.

“Look, does anyone help anyone ... without something in return? What have they wanted there for so long?” Bolsonaro said.

Bolsonaro has insulted adversaries and allies, disparaged women, black and gay people, and praised his country’s 1964-1985 dictatorship. But nothing has rallied more anger at home and criticism from abroad than his response to the fires in parts of the Amazon region.

The Brazilian leader says he is committed to protecting the Amazon and prosecuting anyone involved in illegal fires, many of which appear to be to have been set in already deforested areas to clear land for farming.

But Bolsonaro initially questioned whether activist groups might have started the fires in an effort to damage the credibility of his government, which has called for looser environmental regulations in the world’s largest rainforest to spur development.