G7 club now pledges 20 million to fight Amazon fires

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019 00:00 |
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) and US President Donald Trump during a bilateral meeting in Biarritz, south-western France, on the third day of the annual G7 Summit. Photo/PD/AFP

Biarritz, Monday

The G7 has agreed to spend 20 million euros (Sh223 million) on the Amazon, mainly to send firefighting aircraft to tackle the huge blazes engulfing many parts of the world’s biggest rainforest, the presidents of France and Chile announced Monday.

The G7 club — comprising Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — has also agreed to support a medium-term reforestation plan which will be unveiled at the UN in September, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Chile’s Sebastian Pinera said at the G7 summit in southwest France.

Brazil would have to agree to any reforestation plan, as would indigenous communities living in the Amazon.

The initiative was announced after G7 leaders meeting in the resort of Biarritz held talks on the environment, focusing on the record number of fires destroying chunks of the Amazon. Macron had declared the situation in the Amazon region an “international crisis” and made it one of the summit’s priorities.

He has threatened to block a huge new trade deal between the EU and Latin America unless Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate change sceptic, takes serious steps to protect the forest from logging and mining.

“We must respond to the call of the forest which is burning today in the Amazon,” Macron said Monday.

Nearly 80,000 forest fires have been detected in Brazil since the beginning of the year, a little over half in the massive Amazon basin. Bolsonaro has lashed out at Macron over his criticism and suggested that NGOs could be setting the fires to embarrass him — without giving any evidence to back the claim.

But at the weekend he finally caved in to international pressure to save a region crucial for maintaining a stable global climate, deploying two aircraft to douse the fires and authorising the army to help tackle the blazes.

Speaking in Biarritz, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said new planting was needed “to preserve this universal heritage, which is absolutely essential for the well-being of the world’s population.”

He said that the issue would be discussed during the UN General Assembly in New York in September. 

Meanwhile, hundreds of new fires have flared up in the Amazon in Brazil, data showed, even as military aircraft dumped water over hard-hit areas and G7 nations pledged to help combat the blazes.

Smoke choked Port Velho city as fires raged in the northwestern state of Rondonia where fire-fighting efforts are concentrated, amid a growing global uproar and a diplomatic spat between France and Brazil. -  AFP

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