Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in an working session at the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France on Monday, Aug 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

G7 leaders reach deal to offer help to fight wildfires in Amazon rainforest

Satellites have recorded more than 41,000 fires in the Amazon region so far this year

G7 leaders have come to an agreement to help Brazil fight the raging wildfires in the Amazon rainforest, which have erupted into a global flashpoint over the perils of climate change.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who is hosting this year’s gathering of the leaders of the world’s seven largest economies, says the G7 plans to offer short-term assistance to help douse the flames.

The group has agreed to an immediate US$20-million fund to help Amazon countries fight wildfires, as well as to launch a long-term global initiative to protect the rainforest.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said the G7 effort will be aimed specifically at Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Paraguay.

“They need — and with urgency — brigades specialized in combating fires; specialized planes to fight those fires,” Pinera said.

“The second stage is more long-term and will require the consent of the countries involved,” he added, outlining not only a plan for reforestation of those parts of the basin ravaged by the flames, but also a plan to guard the biodiversity of the region.

“It would, of course, always respect their sovereignty,” he said. “We think we have to protect these real lungs of our world.”

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a populist, far-right leader, initially dismissed the hundreds of blazes and then questioned whether activist groups might have started the fires in an effort to damage the credibility of his government, which has called for looser environmental regulations in the world’s largest rainforest to spur development.

In response, European leaders threatened to block a major trade deal with Brazil that would benefit the very agricultural interests accused of driving deforestation.

Thousands of people have demonstrated in cities across Brazil and outside Brazilian embassies around the world. #PrayforAmazonia became a worldwide trending topic. Pope Francis added his voice to the chorus of concern, warning that the “lung of forest is vital for our planet.”

Bolsonaro finally took a less confrontational approach Friday and announced he would send 44,000 soldiers to help battle the blazes, which mostly seem to be charring land deforested, perhaps illegally, for farming and ranching rather than burning through stands of trees.

PHOTOS: Brazil military begins operations to fight Amazon fires

Macron had already indicated that he intended to make climate issues a prominent part of the agenda for discussion heading into the weekend summit, with a particular urgency placed on the situation playing out in the Amazon.

Calling the wildfires an “international crisis,” Macron called for an emergency debate. “I couldn’t agree more,” tweeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is headed into an election campaign next month that’s expected to make his Liberal government’s climate plan a central point of debate.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke to her Brazilian counterpart Sunday and offered Canada’s support, although it remains unclear what specific commitments Canada has made.

Satellites have recorded more than 41,000 fires in the Amazon region so far this year, with more than half of those coming this month alone.

Monday’s agreement was reached following a summit work session focused on climate, oceans and biodiversity — a session that U.S. President Donald Trump missed in order to attend one-on-one meetings with other leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Macron says Trump’s team was in the room, and that the U.S. president agrees with the shared goal of the Brazil package.

READ MORE: Brazil’s president claims NGOs could be setting Amazon fires

— With files from The Associated Press

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Salmon Arm Silverbacks bound for playoff showdown versus Victoria Grizzlies

Shuswap team tohave home-ice advantage to start the series

Salmon Arm man arrested after damaged safe found in truck

Forty year old facing charges of break and enter, possession of stolen property

On-leash plan for dogs at Salmon Arm cemetery evokes growl from pet owners

City staff to meet with dog owners to consider possible alternatives

Salmon Arm Coldest Night walk warms organizers’ hearts

Event raises more than $10,000 for city’s hungry and homeless

Racist incidents on the rise in the Okanagan as coronavirus spreads

UBCO professor not surprised by recent incidents

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Kelowna man charged after naked driver leads RCMP on hit-and-run spree

A Kelowna man has been charged with numerous offences

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

Shuswap history in pictures: Married versus single

Unusual game of shinny unfolds in Frank Duncan photograph

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Most Read