Bolsonaro points finger at developed nations for historic fossil-fuel use in White House summit speech

Louise Boyle
·2-min read
Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro speaks at the White House climate summit on Earth Day (State.gov)
Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro speaks at the White House climate summit on Earth Day (State.gov)

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro pointed the finger at developed nations for “burning fossil fuels in the course of the past two centuries”, during pointed remarks at the White House climate summit on Thursday.

The leader said that Brazil has accounted for less than 1 per cent of historic greenhouse gas emissions, and despite being a large developing economy, currently accounts for 3 per cent of annual global emissions.

Mr Bolsonaro said that as “home of the planet’s greatest biodiversity”, Brazil was at the forefront of efforts to tackle global warming, and agreed with Mr Biden’s “call for the establishment of ambitious commitments”.

The far-right leader announced that he was bringing forward Brazil’s commitment to climate neutrality by ten years, pledging to reach the goal by 2050.

He also said that he would eliminate illegal deforestation in Brazil by 2030 but that his country requires outside financing to protect the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest.

It was a shift in tone on the Amazon rainforest, exhibiting willingness to step up commitment even as many critics continue doubting his credibility.

Mr Bolsonaro announced during his video-link speech that he would double the amount of money for environmental authorities’ oversight. It’s unclear how that reconciles with immediate spending, as the 2021 budget outlook for the environment ministry is the lowest for any year this century.

The speech appeared to show that his administration realizes it needs to at least start talking the talk in the face of international and domestic pressure.

Dan Wilkinson, who runs Human Rights Watch’s environmental program, told AP that this is “a different tone from the Bolsonaro who was in complete denial two years ago”.

Mr Wilkinson said that it’ was “going to be hard for anyone to take it seriously.”

Last week a group of 15 US senators penned a letter to Mr Biden complaining of Mr Bolsonaro’s woeful environmental track record and urging the US to condition any support for Amazon preservation on significant progress reducing deforestation.

Some 40 world leaders are participating in the two-day summit, coinciding with Earth Day, including the US’s fellow largest polluters, China, India and Russia.

President Biden has invited allies and adversaries alike to the event, putting aside other fraught geopolitical issues in the hopes of more dramatic climate action.

Invitees include leaders of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which total about 80 per cent of global emissions. Nations on the frontlines of the climate crisis, already facing more extreme weather and rising sea levels, have also been invited.

Leaders spoke from their home countries at the wholly virtual event, which suffered early technical glitches. They pledged action to lower carbon emissions, although differed on the details.

AP contributed to this report

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