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Brazil's Bolsonaro under pressure ahead of climate summit

·2-min read
Deforestation in Brazil has surged under President Jair Bolsonaro, who has slashed funding for environmental programs since he took office in 2019 and is pushing to open protected lands to mining and agribusiness

A coalition of environmental groups and agribusiness companies urged President Jair Bolsonaro's government Thursday to set "more ambitious" goals to curb Brazil's emissions and protect the Amazon rainforest at this month's US-organized climate summit.

"Brazil is a key country in the global effort to achieve climate balance," said the Brazil Climate, Forests and Agriculture Coalition, a group of more than 280 organizations and firms.

"Its climate goals need to be more ambitious.... The country urgently needs to significantly reduce greenhouse gases, work to eliminate illegal deforestation and fight environmental crimes."

Deforestation in Brazil has surged under Bolsonaro, who has slashed funding for environmental programs since he took office in 2019 and is pushing to open protected lands to mining and agribusiness.

In the 12 months to August 2020, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon increased 9.5 percent, destroying an area larger than Jamaica, according to government data.

But Brazil has in the past played a leading role in the fight against climate change, underlined the coalition, whose members range from environmental groups such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to ag firms such as Cargill.

"From 2004 to 2012, Brazil achieved the largest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions ever recorded for a single country by cutting the deforestation rate by 80 percent," it said.

"Now is the time for Brazilians to reclaim that leadership role."

The virtual climate summit on April 22-23 is sponsored by US President Joe Biden, who has invited 40 world leaders, including Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro clashed with Biden over the environment when the latter was a presidential candidate.

In September 2020, Biden proposed offering Brazil international financing of $20 billion to "stop tearing down the forest," and warned of "significant economic consequences" if it did not.

Bolsonaro fired back that the comments were "disastrous and unnecessary."

Another coalition of Brazilian environmental groups, the 198-member Climate Observatory, urged the United States Tuesday not to reach any climate deal with Bolsonaro's government without including civil society groups, scientists and the private sector.

"It is not sensible to expect any solutions for the Amazon to stem from closed-door meetings with its worst enemy," it said.

mel/jhb/caw