The United States on Friday welcomed Brazil’s renewed promise to end illegal deforestation but urged immediate action to protect the Amazon, a major factor in global climate change.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, a longtime scourge of environmentalists, in a letter to President Joe Biden ahead of next week’s US-led climate summit voiced support for a previous Brazilian goal of stopping illegal deforestation by 2030.
Bolsonaro’s “recommitment to eliminating illegal deforestation is important,” US climate envoy John Kerry wrote on Twitter.
“We look forward to immediate actions and engagement with indigenous populations and civil society so this announcement can deliver tangible results.”
Bolsonaro, one of the closest international allies of former US president Donald Trump, said his efforts on deforestation showed “unequivocal” support for Biden’s efforts.
But Bolsonaro also appealed for “considerable” international support to help Brazil meet the goal.
One of the most prominent defenders of the Amazon, indigenous leader Raoni Metuktire, voiced skepticism over Bolsonaro’s promise in a video addressed to Biden that warned of encroachments by loggers.
“The president of this country has told many lies,” he said.
“If this bad president says something to you, ignore him. Say that Raoni already talked to me.”
During the presidential campaign Biden called for $20 billion in international funding to stop Brazil from “tearing down the forest” with a risk of economic consequences if it does not comply. Bolsonaro at the time denounced the then candidate’s threats.
Brazil had committed under the 2015 Paris accord to end illegal deforestation by 2030 but the goal was under a cloud due to the election of Bolsonaro, who has opened protected lands to mining and agribusiness.
The Amazon and other rainforests are crucial to the battle against climate change as they serve as giant sinks of carbon in the atmosphere.
In the 12 months to August 2020, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon increased 9.5 percent, destroying an area bigger than Jamaica, according to government data.
Environment Minister Ricardo Salles said on Friday in an interview with AFP that if Brazil received a billion dollars in aid from the international community, it would be able to reduce illegal deforestation in the Amazon rainforest by up to 40 percent.
The money would serve to strengthen “control actions (against illegal deforestation) and, at the same time, to create an economic alternative” for 25 million people who live in the northern Amazon region, he said.
That region is one of the poorest in Brazil despite its vast natural resources.