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    Amazon fires: Brazil to reject G7 offer of $22m aid Featured

    August 27, 2019

    The Brazilian government has said it will reject an offer of aid from G7 countries to help tackle fires in the Amazon rainforest.French President Emmanuel Macron - who hosted a G7 summit that ended on Monday - said $22m (£18m) would be released.

    Brazilian officials gave no reason for turning down the money. But President Jair Bolsonaro has accused France of treating Brazil like a colony.His defence minister said the fires in the Amazon were not out of control.Commenting on the G7 offer of aid, Mr Bolsonaro's chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, told the Globo news website: "Thanks, but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe.""Macron cannot even avoid a predictable fire in a church that is part of the world's heritage, and he wants to give us lessons for our country?" Mr Lorenzoni added, in a reference to the fire that hit Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris in April.He also said Brazil could teach "any nation" how to protect native forests.

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    A record number of fires are burning in Brazil, mostly in the Amazon, according to the country's space research agency, Inpe. President Macron last week described the fires as an "international crisis".
    A Brazilian farmer walks through a burnt area of the Amazon in Rondonia state
    Mr Bolsonaro has previously said his government lacked the resources to fight the record number of fires in the Amazon.Critics have accused him of making deforestation worse in the Amazon through anti-environmental rhetoric. Greenpeace France has described the G7's response to the crisis as "inadequate given the urgency and magnitude of this environmental disaster", it said in a statement (in French).

    On Monday, actor Leonardo DiCaprio pledged $5m towards helping the rainforest.One world expert on forestry says what is needed in Brazil is a change in political priorities."The funding for Brazil's environment agency has gone down by 95% this year, it [has] essentially gutted large part of the actions that have been put in by the agricultural ministry," Yadvinder Malhi, professor of Ecosystem Science at the University of Oxford, told the BBC's Today programme."So the real thing is to look at the political direction of governance in the Amazon that's changing under the new Brazilian government."
    What was pledged?The $22m was announced on Monday as the leaders of the G7 - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US - continue to meet in Biarritz, France.Mr Macron said the funds would be made available immediately - primarily to pay for more fire-fighting planes - and that France would also "offer concrete support with military in the region".

    But Mr Bolsonaro - who has been engaged in a public row with Mr Macron in recent weeks - accused the French leader of launching "unreasonable and gratuitous attacks against the Amazon region", and "hiding his intentions behind the idea of an 'alliance' of G7 countries".Despite Mr Bolsonaro's comments, his environment minister, Ricardo Salles, initially told reporters that the funding was welcome.Media captionMembers of Brazil's indigenous Mura tribe vow to defend their land
    What is Brazil doing?On Friday, facing mounting pressure from abroad, President Bolsonaro authorised the military to help tackle the blazes.Brazil says 44,000 soldiers have been deployed to combat the fires and environmental crimes in the Amazon, and military operations are under way in seven states as the result of requests for assistance from local governments.On Saturday, EU Council president Donald Tusk said it was hard to imagine the bloc ratifying the long-awaited EU-Mercosur agreement - a landmark trade deal with South American nations - while Brazil was still failing to curb the blazes.
    Wildfires often occur in the dry season in Brazil, but satellite data published by Inpe has shown an increase of 85% this year.BBC analysis has also found that the record number of fires being recorded also coincides with a sharp drop off in fines being handed out for environmental violations.
    Why is the Amazon important?Media captionWhy the Amazon rainforest helps fight climate changeAs the largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon is a vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming. It spans a number of countries, but the majority of it falls within Brazil.It is known as the "lungs of the world" for its role in absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.
    The rainforest is also home to about three million species of plants and animals and one million indigenous people.

    Amazon: Lungs of the planet
    The Amazon in South America is the largest, most diverse tropical rainforest on Earth, covering an area of five and a half million square kilometres (2.1 million sq mi).It accounts for more than half of the planet’s remaining rainforest and is home to more than half the world's species of plants and animals.But over the last 40 years, this great verdant tract has been increasingly threatened by deforestation. Clearing of the forest began in the 1960s and reached a peak in the 90s when an area the size of Spain was cleared, primarily to make space for cattle and soybean production.

    But the soil exposed by this clearing is only productive for a short period of time, meaning that farmers must continue to clear more land to keep their businesses viable.Although deforestation rates have now declined – hitting an all time low in 2011 - the forest is still gradually disappearing, reducing the region’s scale and biodiversity.But this felling also has an impact on the planet as a whole because the forest also plays a critical role in cleaning the air we breathe.
    It does this by sucking up the global emissions of carbon dioxide from things like cars, planes and power stations to name just a few.Without this “carbon sink” the world’s ability to lock up carbon will be reduced, compounding the effects of global warming.In this film, ecological economist Dr Trista Patterson, lead scientist with The Nature Conservancy Dr M Sanjayan, sustainability advisor and author Tony Juniper and environmental economist Pavan Sukhdev reveal the richness of life supported by the Amazon and the hidden contribution this great forest makes in helping regulate the planets climate.

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