The dozen countries that for millennia have best preserved their tropical forests — crucial ecosystems for the planet to contain the climate emergency — want industrialized states to stop making promises and take out their wallets. That is the message to the rich world of the climate summit organized by Brazil in the Amazon. The host, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, took the opportunity to launch a harsh accusation at the European Union: “Protectionist measures poorly disguised as environmental concern are not the way to go,” he declared this Wednesday when closing the meeting with the rest of the Amazonian countries and those that house the largest tropical forests in the world. The message was clear even though Lula did not mention the EU, the trade agreement of the Twenty-seven with Mercosur or the recent European law that vetoes the importation of products from deforested areas.
Lula has insisted on the line of demanding that the rich countries pay those who take care of the forests, but with the added argument of historical responsibility: “It is not Brazil, Colombia or Venezuela that need money, but nature. It is she who needs them (the developed countries) to pay to fix what has been destroyed over 200 years of industrial development”.
The new European environmental demands that Mercosur does not accept have become the main obstacle to the ratification of the treaty that both blocks closed in 2019 after two decades of negotiations. The added demands by Brussels and a law that since May vetoes soybeans, coffee, cocoa or meat from illegally logged or degraded areas in the EU has touched a nerve in Brazil and the rest of the Mercosur countries. They consider them an intolerable affront, part of what Lula defines as “green neocolonialism.”
France, an agricultural powerhouse, is another of those noted. Emmanuel Macron was invited to this Belém summit as president of French Guyana, an overseas territory that is home to a small piece of Amazonia, but he never confirmed his presence. It has made itself heard through a tweet in which it congratulates Lula for organizing it, stresses that “forests are essential to combat climate change and the loss of biodiversity” and is proud that France was “the driving force behind the historic decision of the EU to stop contributing to imported deforestation”. Precisely, the norm that irritates Brazil so much because it seems made to measure.
Forests are absolutely essential in the fight against global warming and biodiversity loss.
But in 2022 alone, some four million hectares of primary tropical forest were lost.
We must urgently stop deforestation.
Many commitments have already been made:…
—Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 8, 2023
Also on this flank, Lula is committed to multilateralism and has advocated in Belém for “an international system that certifies products from tropical forests.” During the current semester, Brazil presides over Mercosur and Spain, the EU.
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The Brazilian president appeared alone before the press before the lunch with which this summit closed, a rehearsal for the UN COP 30 that this Amazonian city intends to host in 2025. On the closing day, the Democratic Republic of Congo , the Republic of the Congo and Indonesia have joined the eight Amazon countries (Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela) that the day before promised to make an effort so that the Amazon does not reach the point of no return . If you continue to lose trees and biodiversity, you will stop absorbing carbon dioxide and start emitting it. In other words, it will stop contributing to the solution of the climate crisis to aggravate it.
The defense of the environment and multilateralism are two of the pillars of Lula’s foreign policy. Hence his determination that the countries that host the valuable tropical forests, which help regulate the planet’s temperature, unify positions and create blocs to increase their negotiating potential in the great climate summits. The President of the Republic of the Congo, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, recalled from Brazil the basic data of the service that his territory renders to the planet: “My country represents 10% of the world’s forests and sequesters 24.5 gigatons of polluting gases . We need to increase that carbon dioxide absorption and we need more cooperation for that.”
Summit of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO), in Belém, Brazil.BRAZIL PRESIDENCY (via REUTERS)
The Brazilian president has insisted on his idea that it is not enough to take care of the Amazon or the rest of the tropical forests as if they were sanctuaries without neighbors; In his opinion, it is essential to offer opportunities to achieve a dignified life for those who inhabit these ecosystems. And he has praised the invaluable work of indigenous peoples as environmental inspectors.
One voice before the COP
As in so many international donor conferences, in the case of tropical forests the millions of dollars promised at successive summits by industrialized countries have not materialized. That is why they want to go with one voice to the next COP, which is being held in Dubai. Among other bilaterals, Lula has met in Belém with Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, who, in addition to being president of the next UN climate conclave in his country, is the executive director of the state oil company.
People in the Amazon, often the poorest in their respective countries and with poor public services because the logistical challenge is daunting, feel that the developed world cares more about their trees, birds and insects than the humans who live in cities. and villages in those six million square kilometers of forested area around the Amazon River. Its leaders are fully aware that they need to demonstrate to their compatriots that the myriad of studies that quantify the potential of the bioeconomy in fabulous numbers of dollars translates into businesses that can be replicated on a large scale and produce constant and resounding benefits for greater layers of population than the small producer who succeeds with his gourmet delicacy in international markets.
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