Energy & Environment

Brazil needs 'back up' from wealthy countries to fight deforestation, top official says

Brazil's environment minister emphasized in a new interview that his country needs the support of wealthier nations in order to stem the rise of deforestation. 

"We are willing to do whatever is necessary to do so, but we need that back up," Ricardo Salles told The Associated Press in an interview on the sidelines of the United Nations' climate change conference.

"That back up was promised many years ago and we're still expecting the rich countries to participate in a proper way," he added. "Proportional funds are really are what are going to be needed for that task."

Salles declined to comment on whether President Jair Bolsonaro's administration would set a specific target to limit deforestation in 2020, the AP noted. His comments come amid a year in which many international leaders have expressed dismay over the deforestation and wildfires proliferating in the Amazon rainforest. 

Bolsonaro has faced substantial scrutiny over his environmental policies and whether he is committed to preserving the Amazon. The leader, who once said that Brazil's environmental policies were "suffocating" the nation's economy, took office earlier this year vowing to open up the rainforest for business development. 

Deforestation in the Amazon reportedly increased by 30 percent this year when compared to 2018. Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) released data earlier this year showing deforestation had increased by 88 percent in June alone compared to the same month last year.

Salles cited Article 6 of the Paris Climate Agreement while advocating for richer countries to offer assistance to Brazil's efforts to combat climate change, according to the AP, which noted that Article 6 calls for monetary mechanisms to be produced to assist developing nations. 

Over the last decade, countries such as Germany and Norway have contributed donations to the Amazon Fund to help Brazil fight deforestation. Though the two nations suspended their contributions in August after Bolsonaro's administration disbanded the steering committee for the fund. 

Salles noted that Brazil is currently in talks with Germany and Norway to set up new terms for the fund. 

"[Brazil now has] an appropriate approach on the problem of deforestation," Salles said. 

"If we don't solve the economic development for more than 20 million Brazilians who live there and people who need to have this sustainable, from both a financial and environmental perspective, they will be easily co-opted by illegal activities," Salles added. "It is a huge effort to attract the private sector to participate."

A surge in wildfires in the Amazon prompted global consternation earlier this year, with leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron declaring that "our house is burning." The advocacy group Greenpeace Brazil told The Hill in August that fires have increased in areas most affected by rises in deforestation. 

Experts warn that a continued increase in both deforestation and wildfires in the Amazon could make it nearly impossible to maintain the goals laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement.