The Brazil government is set to reject more than $22 million (£18 million) pledged at the G7 summit to help fight the raging fires in the Amazon.
The funding was announced yesterday (August 26) by French President Emmanuel Macron, who hosted the G7 summit and said the money would be released immediately – primarily for more fire-fighting planes.
Brazilian officials did not immediately provide a reason for refusing the money, although President Jair Bolsonaro has previously accused Macron of treating Brazil like a colony.
Brazil’s environment minister initially welcomed the pledge from the G7, as well as a separate £10 million pledge from the UK and £9 million from Canada.
However, the BBC reports defence minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva has now stated the fires in the Amazon are not out of control, adding 44,000 soldiers have so far been deployed to combat them.
When asked about the G7’s offer of aid, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, told the G1 news website, as per The Independent: ‘We appreciate [the offer] but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe’.
He added, while referencing the fire which tore through the Notre-Dame cathedral in April:
Macron cannot even avoid a foreseeable fire in a church that is a world heritage site. What does he intend to teach our country?
He also said Brazil could teach ‘any nation’ how to protect native forests, despite the fact the rainforest – which covers northwestern Brazil and extends into Colombia, Peru and other South American countries – has been burning for weeks, causing a loss equivalent to three football fields per minute.
Bolsonaro has been criticised worldwide for his response to the fires, which environmental groups say are directly linked to him giving the go-ahead for farmers and illegal loggers to enter indigenous communities.
At first, President Bolsonaro claimed his government ‘lacks the resources’ to extinguish the fire, although he authorised the military to help tackle the blazes on Friday (August 23) due to mounting pressure from abroad.
However, despite this new arrangement, the president is still unwilling to budge on his decision to reject the $22 million pledged by the G7.
After meeting with his ministers on Monday night (August 26), Bolsonaro suggested the West was trying to gain access to Brazil’s natural resources.
He said, as per The Independent:
Look, does anyone help anyone… without something in return? What have they wanted there for so long?
President Macron argued that the Amazon is a world issue and that his message to Bolsonaro was: ‘We cannot allow you to destroy everything’. He said that, while Brazil’s sovereignty must be respected, the world can help Brazil reforest and build its economy ‘while respecting the natural balance’.
If it continues to burn, the Amazon – which is widely referred to as ‘the lungs of the world’ because it provides 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen – could reach a ‘tipping point’ from which it will never be able to recover.
Not only that, but the rainforest is also home to approximately one million indigenous people and three million species of plants and animals.