G7 leaders strike agreement to help Amazon countries combat wildfires

26th August 2019

US President Donald Trump skips summit talks on climate emergency and Amazon fires.

Countries forming part of the G7 have agreed to an immediate $20m (€18m) aid package aimed at assisting Amazon countries combat wildfires which have plagued the region in recent weeks.

The fund is also aimed at a longer-term global initiative to protect the rainforest, considered to be the world’s lungs.

Leaders from the G7 countries, which comprise of Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, together with EU Council President Donald Tusk, met in Biarritz, France, for the annual G7 summit, the 45th of its kind.

The French and Chilean presidents announced the aid package on Monday, adding that it will include plans for a reforestation programme, further details of which will be revealed at the UN general assembly meeting in September.

Satellite date shows more than 41,000 fires in the Amazon region so far this year – more than half of which took place in August alone. Experts in the region say that the first are started by farmers or ranchers clearing existing farmland for agro-business purposes.

While the forest fires are not new at this time of year due to land being raised for agricultural purposes, critics have slammed Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro for the policy direction his government has taken, prioritising the economy and business over essential environmental protections.

Critics say farmers and those in the agricultural business are emboldened by the government’s moves to defund environmental protection agencies. In addition to this, the vast size of the state of Amazonia in Brazil makes it very difficult for there to be ongoing enforcement presence.

The Amazon rainforest is located in South America and covers 5.5 million sq km of land. Brazil has 60 per cent, Peru has 13 per cent, and Colombia has 10 per cent while other countries, namely Bolivia, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela, have very small parts of the rainforest within their borders.

French President Emmanuel Macron conceded that President Donald Trump was not in attendance for the G7 session on climate change, biodiversity and the oceans, but stresses that “his team was there” and that the USA supported the initiative.

President Macron was initial criticism of Mr Bolsonaro over the fires was met with anger, as the latter accused the former of colonialism. President Bolsonaro long accused European powers of suffering from a colonialist mentally, accusing the west of wanting to undermine Brazilian sovereignty through its interest in the Amazon.

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G7 leaders strike agreement to help Amazon countries combat wildfires