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HomeNewsSouth American leaders discuss Amazon protection in Brazil – DW – 08/08/2023

South American leaders discuss Amazon protection in Brazil – DW – 08/08/2023

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The eight countries of the Amazon held a summit in Brazil on Tuesday, to discuss the challenges facing the largest rainforest in the world.

The two-day meeting is taking place in the Brazilian city of Belem and it includes the members of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO), a 45-year-old alliance. 

The group has only met three times before in its history, with the last summit having taken place 14 years ago.

The presidents of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Peru all attended the summit, while Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela sent other top officials. 

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva welcomed attendees, saying the group would “discuss and promote a new vision of sustainable, inclusive development in the region.”  

“We will strengthen the place of countries possessing tropical forests in the global agenda on issues from confronting climate change to the reform of the international financial system,” he added.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during the Amazon summit in Belem, Brazil
Leftist Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has sought policies to protect the Amazon, a reversal from his right-wing predecessor Jair Bolsonaro Image: Eraldo Peres/AP Photo/picture alliance

Avoiding a ‘tipping point’

The Amazon stretches across an area twice the size of India, with two-thirds of it lying in Brazil, and it hosts an estimated 10% of Earth’s biodiversity, 50 million people and hundreds of billions of trees.

Its vast area is known as a vital carbon sink that helps reduce global warming. If it is destroyed, scientists warn it would push it dangerously close to a “tipping point,” beyond which trees would die off and release carbon rather than absorb it, with catastrophic consequences for the climate.

Ahead of the summit, Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva told a ministerial meeting that the summit’s nations were determined “not to let the Amazon reach a point of no return.”

Indigenous people hold a march in defense of the Amazon in Belem, Brazil
Indgenous people have railed against Amazon deforestion which threatens their lands and livelihoodsImage: Paulo Santos/AP Photo/picture alliance

Seeking consensus

One of the main issues plaguing the Amazon is deforestation, which is linked to lucrative industries such as beef, soy, cocoa and other products. 

ACTO nations are hoping to reach a joint pledge to stop deforestation by 2030, end illegal gold mining, and cooperate on cross-border policing of environmental crime.

But finding consensus may be hard, so far only Brazil and Colombia have pledged to stop deforestation completely by 2030, as other countries have been reluctant to make this promise. 

Meanwhile, Colombian has pushed for a ban all new oil exploration in the area, which stands at odds with oil-rich Venezuela and also Brazil, whose state-run oil company, Petrobras, is controversially seeking to explore new offshore blocs at the mouth of the Amazon river itself.

The final agreement, which would be known the Belem Declaration, is expected to be released late on Tuesday afternoon.

After that, Amazon countries will meet with leaders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia on Wednesday, looking to issue a joint statement from the world’s three major rainforest basins.

Norway and Germany, which have funded Amazon preservation, along with France, which controls the Amazon territory of French Guyana, will take part in the meetings. 

jcg/wd (Reuters, AFP, AP) 

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