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    Brazil rejected millions in Amazon aid, later, Bolsonaro hinted at a reversal

    August 28, 2019

    (São Paulo, Brazil)Brazil has escalated its war of words with global powers over the Amazon fires, announcing it would reject $20 million in foreign aid before the country's president appeared to contradict his own representatives and leave the door open to accepting the funds.The special communications office for President Jair Bolsonaro told CNN on Tuesday morning that Brazil would turn down the money that was pledged at the G7 summit in France the day before.


    But around an hour after his communications office confirmed that Brazil would reject the funding, Bolsonaro appeared to cast doubt on the matter. "Did I say that? Did I? Did Jair Bolsonaro speak?" he asked reporters outside the presidential residence.The Brazilian president added that he would only respond to the offer once French President Emmanuel Macron withdrew his insults against him. Macron had accused Bolsonaro of "lying" to him about climate commitments during trade negotiations.
    The Amazon blazes have caused a public spat between Bolsonaro and Macron, who has been vocal about the need for an international response to the fires. Macron spearheaded the effort and announced the aid package at the G7 summit he hosted in Biarritz. Bolsonaro's chief of staff waded into the dispute between the two leaders on Monday evening, suggesting that the money should instead be used "to reforest Europe."
    "Macron is unable to avoid a preventable fire in a church that is at a World Heritage Site and he wants to show us what is for our country? He has a lot to look after at home and the French colonies," Onyx Lorenzoni was quoted as saying by G1 Globo late Monday night. He was referring to the Notre Dame Cathedral fire in April.
    Later on Tuesday, during a meeting with governors of states affected by the fires, Bolsonaro struck a more conciliatory tone, announcing that no one in his administration was opposed to negotiating with France. "We even thank the G7 for its work," he said. However, he added that Macron "should think two, three times before he attempts to get out of the complicated situation he is in, with huge disapproval within his own country, by messing with us."
    For days, Bolsonaro had been saying the idea of creating an international alliance to save the Amazon would be treating Brazil like "a colony or no man's land," calling it an attack on the country's sovereignty.Satellite data provided by European monitoring service Copernicus (CAMS) on Tuesday now shows that fire activity over the Brazilian Amazon has decreased in recent days and is trending at or below normal levels for the last week of August, according to data records that go back to 2003."Over the last few days, fire activity seem to have in general been below average compared to the previous 16 years in the GFAS dataset," CAMS scientist and fire expert, Mark Parrington, said.
    International help
    Speaking alongside Macron at the G7 on Monday, Chile's President Sebastián Piñera announced a new two-step process for fighting the Amazon blazes. He said the first step was to cover the emergency and collaborate with Amazonian countries in fighting the fires. The next phase would be focused on protecting the forest's biodiversity then working on reforestation. Piñera said this would be agreed at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September. "The second step would be possible because of the collaboration between the Amazonian countries and the G7 countries," Piñera said, adding this would be done while "of course always respecting their sovereignty." The conflict between Macron and Bolsonaro got personal when a user post on the Brazilian president's Facebook page compared the appearance of his wife with that of the French first lady, implying that Macron was jealous. Bolsonaro's official account then commented: "Don't humiliate the guy ... haha."
    Macron described the remark as "extremely disrespectful."Bolsonaro's government had found itself under increasing international pressure over its environmental policies even before the major fires broke out earlier this month.Germany and Norway both suspended their contributions to Brazil's Amazon Fund earlier in August. Over the past decade, Norway has donated $1.2 billion to the conservation fund, which is managed by the Brazilian Development Bank. Germany has contributed $68 million.The German Environment ministry said earlier this month it was suspending the program, and its planned donation of up to $35 million euros ($39 million), because of doubts over Brazil's efforts to reduce deforestation.
    A few days after that, Norway announced it suspended donations because the Brazilian government dissolved the fund's steering and technical committees. Fires are raging in the Amazon forest. Here's how you can help slow all rainforest loss Fires are raging in the Amazon forest. Here's how you can help slow all rainforest loss While some world leaders have criticized the Brazilian president for his handling of the fires, he received praise from US President Donald Trump, who tweeted Tuesday that Bolsonaro was doing a "great job" that was "not easy."
    "He and his country have the full and complete support of the USA!" Trump tweeted. Bolsonaro said the tweet pleased him "a lot". "We know that President Donald Trump from whom I have profound appreciation, he has his communication via social media and he just tweeted this, and this is something that pleases me a lot," he said.
    Fires are raging in the Amazon forest. Here's how you can help slow all rainforest loss
    The Amazon, the largest rainforest in the world, roughly half the size of the United States, is key to the health of the entire planet. Estimates show that nearly 20% of the oxygen produced by the Earth's land comes from the Amazon rain forest. It also puts an enormous amount of water into the atmosphere at a time when cities are drying up. The Amazon is sucking in carbon and greenhouse gases while slowing the rising temperatures. But it's now burning at a record rate -- with images from space showing the smoke covering much of Brazil.
    US cities are losing 36 million trees a year. Here's why it matters and how you can stop it
    It's not the only major forest under assault. Nearly half of the world's forests that stood when humans started farming are now gone, and each year an additional 32 million acres are destroyed, according to the nonprofit Rainforest Alliance. The biggest reason is expansion of agriculture into forested areas. In Brazil it's cattle ranching, soy production and logging, according to Nigel Sizer, tropical forest ecologist and chief program officer with the Rainforest Alliance. "It is responsible for 80% to 90% of the loss of tropical forests around the world." Environmental groups say these activities can be slowed or done in a much more sustainable way.
    "There has been a lot of analysis and satellite data that shows there is so much land already cleared - a lot abandoned or very poorly used and managed that we could use to grow food on," says Sizer. "We don't need to be clearing new forests to do this in Brazil."
    Here's what you can do to help slow forest loss.
    Help reforestation and slow deforestation
    You can help reforest parts of the world through the Rainforest Trust and Rainforest Alliance. The Rainforest Trust allows you to restrict your donations to a specific project. The Rainforest Alliance says 100% of your donation will help stop deforestation in Brazil right now. They are working with local groups at the forefront of this fight. Part of the Alliance's work strives to make Brazil's current ranches and farms more productive.
    The Arbor Day Foundation also has a program to help save tropical rain forests which provide habitat for some 50% of the world's plants and animals.

    You can donate to any of these nonprofits by clicking on the button above, or clicking here.
    Make sure products you buy are "rainforest safe"
    Products featuring the "Rainforest Alliance Certified™" seal come from farms that passed audits and met standards for sustainability. Thousands of products have earned the seal -- including coffee, chocolate and bananas.
    If you're buying tropical wood products, look for the label "Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)." That's the major certification system for forest and paper products, according to Sizer.
    The nonprofit makes sure that the wood is not contributing to illegal logging and deforestation. You can also donate to the group. "Look out for that when you have that option," Sizer said.
    Take steps to live sustainably
    As major forests decrease in size, carbon and greenhouse gases have increased in the atmosphere. But you can help slow that trend.
    "Think about greenhouse gas emissions -- driving less, buy a more fuel efficient car," Sizer says. He also recommends adjusting your thermostats by just a couple of degrees. "It makes a huge difference and saves money as well."
    You can also buy carbon offsets. "If you have to fly for work often -- you can buy these offsets by making a small contribution to an organization that is planting trees, sucking up carbon that's being emitted when you fly. These things really add up."
    About 20% of the Amazon has already been destroyed, and that's what scares Sizer. "The newest science now says if we deforest, if there's a clearing of more than about 30% to 40% of the Amazon rainforest, it will start to dry out. We'll pass an irreversible tipping point.

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