Wildfires raging in the Amazon rainforest were today branded a “crime against humanity” as a war of words erupted between the presidents of Brazil and France over the growing crisis.
President Emmanuel Macron insisted the fires and their effect on climate change should top the agenda at this weekend’s G7 summit in Biarritz.
“Our house is burning,” he tweeted. “The Amazon rainforest — the lungs which produce 20 per cent of our planet’s oxygen — is on fire. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!”
But Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who environmentalists say fuelled the crisis by encouraging land-clearing by farmers and loggers, accused the French leader of highlighting the issue for “personal political gain”.
The Right-wing populist was angered by the call to discuss the fires at the G7 meeting of the world’s most powerful nations — which does not include Brazil. “The French president’s suggestion that Amazonian issues be discussed at the G7 without the participation of the countries of the region evokes a misplaced colonialist mindset, which does not belong in the 21st century,” he said.
Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest - the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen - is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days! #ActForTheAmazon pic.twitter.com/dogOJj9big— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron)August 22, 2019
Mr Bolsonaro has suggested that international NGOs could have started the fires because he has cut their funding. “Do you want me to blame the Martians?” he said yesterday. “Everyone is a suspect, but the biggest suspects are NGOs.” He added: “The Amazon is bigger than Europe, how will you fight criminal fires in such an area? We do not have the resources for that.”
Scientists say there are a record number of fires in the world’s largest tropical rainforest. It is estimated there have been almost double the number of fires so far this year compared with the same period in 2018.
Former Brazil environment minister and presidential candidate Marina Silva said: “The whole world is watching a situation that is out of control in terms of deforestation and fires in Brazil’s Amazon.”
“It’s a situation I regard to be a crime against the homeland, a crime against humanity,” added Ms Silva, who blames the country’s leader for cuts in environmental protection for the Amazon.
Critics of Mr Bolsonaro say he has called for protected areas to be opened up for development and has sided with those involved in deforestation.
“The Bolsonaro government has broken down all the environmental policies that were created throughout the decades,” said Ms Silva, who was brought up in the Amazon. The 56-year-old environmental activist is being tipped to become Brazil’s first black leader when the country goes to the polls in October.