Monday

9th Dec 2019

'Our house is burning,' Macron says on Amazon fires

  • Amazon jungle provides 20 percent of world's oxygen (Photo: Dirk Henker)

French president Emmanuel Macron has pushed the raging fires in Brazil's rainforests onto the G7 summit agenda, describing it as international crisis.

"Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest - the lungs which produce 20 percent of our planet's oxygen - are on fire. It is an international crisis," he said, in a tweet on Thursday (22 August).

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  • French president Emmanuel Macron is hosting the G7 summit in Biarritz, France (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Data released by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research had earlier this week said the country is experiencing a large spike in the number of fires throughout the Amazon jungle.

Some 72,000 fires were registered this year in the country alone, around half of which were in the Amazon.

It also said satellite data showed an 84 percent increase on the same period in 2018, in figures which were later contested by Brazil's far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, who fired the head of the national institute.

In a sharp rebuke to Macron's tweet, Bolsonaro also said the French president was trying to score political points and downplayed the fires as part of a leftist plot.

"I regret that president Macron seeks to take advantage of what is a domestic Brazilian issue and of other Amazonian countries for personal political gain," Bolsonaro tweeted.

He then accused Macron of a "colonial mindset" for placing the issue onto the G7 agenda without involving Brazil as part of the talks.

G7 Biodiversity Charter

The G7 talks already included a point on climate change and biodiversity prior to Macron's announcement on the Amazon, which will be discussed next Monday.

The G7 leaders, as well as those from Chile, Fiji, Gabon, Mexico, Niger, and Norway, are set to endorse a charter that commits them to intensify efforts to halt biodiversity loss.

"The charter was discussed by the ministers, already, so we are quite confident that there will be a consensus on this also," a senior EU official told reporters in Brussels on Thursday morning.

The Amazon is home to about 3m species of plants and animals. Around 1m indigenous people also live there.

Since he took office in January, Bolsonaro has led a campaign to pry open the Amazon forests for loggers and farmers to clear land.

The World Wildlife Fund, an international NGO, said the intensity of the Amazon fires is a direct consequence of accelerated deforestation.

"The Amazon is the world's largest rainforest and a key ally in fighting the climate crisis. It's meant to absorb carbon, not produce it," it said in a statement.

It noted the Amazon contains up to 140bn tonnes of carbon, the equivalent of what humans produce in 100 years.

"Put simply, there's no way we can fight the climate crisis without stopping the destruction of our forests," it added.

The G7 summit takes place this coming weekend in Biarritz, France.

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