The Amazon is, beyond the formidable adventures it evokes, a crucial territory so that the health of the planet does not worsen even faster. The president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has made the environment one of the axes of his foreign policy, meets this Tuesday and Wednesday in Belém the eight countries that are home to the largest tropical forest in the world, although finally the Venezuelan Nicolás Maduro will not attend. The idea is to strengthen ties to participate as a solid block in climate negotiations and face challenges of planetary importance, such as deforestation, or other local ones such as poverty and the strength of organized crime. For this, Lula and his counterparts seek mutual and international support.
The Venezuelan Maduro canceled the day before, once again, his presence at a summit. On this occasion, due to otitis, which is a setback for Lula, who has made great efforts to get him out of diplomatic ostracism. In her place, the vice president, Delcy Rodríguez, will be in Belém. Nor will President Emmanuel Macron travel to the Amazon city. The Frenchman was invited because he is also the head of state of a small piece of the Amazon, French Guyana. For months, Lula dreamed that the presence of the European leader in the heart of the tropical jungle would give support to Brazil’s return to the leading squad in the fight against climate change after the mandate of Jair Bolsonaro, marked by denialism and laxity with environmental criminals. Who has gone to Brazil is Peruvian President Dina Boluarte, who was unable to attend a recent meeting with her South American counterparts.
“The problems of the Amazon are not only in the treetops but also below,” Lula declared on Tuesday, implicitly referring to the very few opportunities to earn a legal living in that vast territory.
The six million square kilometers of Amazonia extend through Brazil (which houses 60% of this forest), Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. The rest of the world is affected by what happens here because it is home to 20% of the planet’s freshwater reserves and exceptional biodiversity, some 16,000 species of trees, a single Amazon hectare has more tree species than the entire European Union, as usual remember Carlos Nobre, one of the great specialists in how the degradation of the Amazon accelerates climate change. But it is also a kind of Wild West with a population similar to that of Spain, little presence of public power, extremely poor and eaten away by deforestation, drug trafficking and illegal mining.
For Lula, this summit was the opportunity to put the world’s focus on the Amazon, a territory that is talked about a lot in climate forums but that few of those who attend them have set foot on. Upon his arrival in Belém to preside over the summit, the president stressed that this biome is not a museum but the home of 47 million people who “want to live well, work, produce.” The Brazilian trusts that the Amazonian countries together with the international community will manage, through public and private initiatives, “to find a way to preserve (the tropical forest) earning money so that the people who live here can live with dignity.”
Although Lula did not make it explicit, the challenge is to generate opportunities to earn a living through legal means that contribute to preserving biodiversity because now the inhabitants of the tropical forest aspire to the stability of public employment and many of those who do not achieve it end up looking for themselves. life in illegal activities such as deforestation, poaching or illegal mining.
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One of the elephants in the room is the debate over the exploitation of fossil fuels from this valuable rainforest. Colombian President Gustavo Petro is promoting a law to veto oil extraction, but Lula’s position is ambiguous —he defends sustainable oil exploitation that environmentalists consider unfeasible— and prefers to ignore an issue that potentially shows its contradictions in environmental matters. It should not be forgotten that Petrobras is one of the largest companies in Brazil. Brazil would like its neighbors to join the commitment to achieve zero deforestation by 2030. Preliminary data is promising because it shows a notable decline, but it remains to be seen if it is confirmed by the end of the year.
Not even the increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as the heat waves in Europe or the typhoon that has forced thousands of scouts to leave South Korea in haste due to a typhoon have been able to give this Amazonian event that is held in Belém flight. , the capital of the Brazilian State with the worst deforestation rates, a territory with 27 million head of cattle, three times more than inhabitants, responsible for being a champion in harmful gas emissions. Belém is scheduled to host the great UN climate summit in 2025, the so-called COP 30.
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