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US ready to fight Amazon forest fires ... but only if it involves working with Brazilian government

On Monday, the countries of the G7 pledged €18 million to tackle the Amazon fires.

Fire consumes an area in Altamira, Brazil
Fire consumes an area in Altamira, Brazil
Image: Leo Correa via PA Images

THE US IS ready and willing to help Brazil fight forest fires in the Amazon, an aide to President Donald Trump has said, but only if it involves working with the Brazilian government.

On Monday, the countries of the G7 – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US – pledged €18 million to tackle blazes engulfing parts of the world’s largest rainforest that is crucial for maintaining a stable global climate. 

“The US stands ready to assist Brazil in efforts to combat fires in the Amazon,” National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis tweeted. 

However, the Trump administration prefers a plan that includes discussion with Brazil’s government, he said. 

“We didn’t agree to a G7 initiative that failed to include consultations w/ @jairbolsonaro. The most constructive way to assist w/ Brazil’s ongoing efforts is in coordination w/ the Brazilian Gov.”

Some 83,329 fires have been reported in Brazil this year, according to the most recent figures from Brazilian space research agency INPE

The overall figure is the highest since records began in 2013, and marks an 84% increase on the same period last year.

Over 1,650 new fires were started on Sunday and Monday alone.

Over half of the fires are in the massive Amazon basin. Some 60% of the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest, is in Brazil.

The forest absorbs two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, about 5% of the world’s annual emissions. 

Brazil’s stance

Bolsonaro has repeatedly clashed with European leaders, especially France’s President Emmanuel Macron, over Brazil’s handling of the Amazon crisis.

Bolsonaro at first rejected the G7′s offer, saying on Tuesday that he would be willing to accept the aid only if Macron withdrew his “insults”, before changing his mind to say Brazil would accept foreign aid on the condition that it controlled the money.

But later yesterday, the South American leader fired a fresh salvo, accusing France and Germany of “buying” Brazil’s national sovereignty and throwing into doubt whether his country was still open to accepting the aid funds.

Trump, who met with Bolsonaro at the White House in March, tweeted his “full and complete support” for the Brazilian president on Tuesday and praised him for his “very hard” work on the Amazon crisis. 

Macron has accused Bolsonaro of lying to him about his commitments on climate change and vowed to block the EU-Mercosur trade deal involving Brazil that took decades to negotiate.

Closer to home, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last week threatened that Ireland will vote against the controversial Mercosur trade deal unless Brazil takes steps to protect the Amazon.

“There is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement if Brazil does not honour its environmental commitments,” Varadkar said in a statement.

“President Bolsonaro’s efforts to blame the fires on environmental NGOs is Orwellian,” Varadkar added. 

Although about 60% of the Amazon is located in Brazil, the vast forest also spreads over parts of either other countries or territories in South America. 

Includes reporting by © AFP 2019 and Órla Ryan

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