Amazon fire: Macron declares international crisis and demands emergency G7 talks over fires destroying vital Brazil rainforests

Zamira Rahim
Smoke billows during a fire in the Amazon: REUTERS

Emmanuel Macron has described the Amazon rainforest fires as an international crisis and demanded emergency talks at the forthcoming G7 summit of world leaders.

“Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest — the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen — is on fire,” the French leader tweeted on Thursday.

“It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!”

Brazil’s space research centre, Inpe, has detected 72,843 fires in the Amazon so far this year an 84 per cent rise compared to 2018.

The blazes have been blamed for a plume of smoke which blocked out the sun over Sao Paulo on Monday.

Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right Brazilian president - who leaked documents revealed has been actively sabotaging efforts to protect the vital global resource of the rainforests - struck a defensive tone over the fires.

“I regret that Macron seeks to make personal political gains in an internal matter for Brazil and other Amazonian countries,” the 64-year-old said.

“The sensationalist tone he used does nothing to solve the problem.”

The Brazilian leader also said Mr Macron’s suggested G7 talks betrayed a “colonialist mindset”.

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“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 in the 21st century,” he said.

Indigenous groups living within the Amazon have tried desperately to save the land.

Many blame illegal ranchers for setting the fires and conservation groups believe the crisis is man made.

They also believe the Bolsonaro government has tacitly encouraged people to set the fires in order to clear the land.

The Brazilian leader has, in turn, blamed non-governmental groups and said there is a “very strong” indication that they are responsible for the fires.

He has provided no evidence for his claims.

“Instead of spreading outrageous lies or denying the scale of deforestation taking place, we urge the president to take immediate action to halt the progress of these fires,” said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s secretary general.

Leaked documents, first obtained by Open Democracy, suggest that the Bolsonaro administration has deliberately tried to sabotage conservation efforts in the Amazon.

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The devastating fires have prompted global concern over the Amazon, which provides 20 per cent of the world's oxygen supply.

The largest rainforest in the world, it is vital for slowing down the pace of global warming.

Environmental groups have called for protests in cities across Brazil on Friday to push the government to take action to combat the fires. Bolsonaro, however, has said that the goverment lack the resources to tackle the blaze.

Germany and Norway, citing Brazil’s apparent lack of commitment to fighting deforestation, have decided to withhold more than $60m (£50m) in funds earmarked for sustainability projects in Brazilian forests.

And on Wednesday UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted: “In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity.

“The Amazon must be protected.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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