Brazil’s president brushes off German funding threat

Brazil’s president brushes off German funding threat

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has brushed off Germany’s funding of sustainability projects in Brazil’s forests.

“They can use this money as they see fit. Brazil doesn’t need it,” said the populist president known for his ties to agribusiness as Germany threatened to withdraw funding in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest.

Since 2008, Berlin has paid €95 million in support of Brazilian environmental protection programmes.

Bolsonaro has said he does not intend to designate any further conservation areas in the Amazon and has pledged to allow more clearances and increased economic use of the forest.

Brazil is home to more than 60 per cent of the Amazon rainforest, which is being removed at an increasing rate to create more farmland. The Amazon is vital to the exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to check global warming.

German Environment Minister Svenja Schulz said Berlin planned to stop sending money to a government that was not fully committed to stopping deforestation. The ministry is reportedly planning to initially freeze €35 million in investment.

Part of the cash goes to the Amazon Fund, which was created in 2008 to receive donations to help prevent, monitor and combat deforestation.

Germany is one of the fund’s three main contributors, along with the largest funder, Norway, and Brazilian state-run oil giant Petrobras.

Bolsonaro’s team has questioned the efficiency of the Amazon Fund and pushed for an internal overhaul, threatening funding from Norway and Germany.

Oslo has threatened to withdraw and said last year that payments would be halved and may be stopped entirely.

Germany has committed to funding non-government activities by the fund.

Bolsonaro has also questioned deforestation figures in the Amazon published by the National Institute for Space Research, causing the sacking of the institute’s president, Ricardo Galvao.

The agency estimated last week that 2,254 square km of the Amazon were cleared last month, a rise of 278 per cent from a year earlier.

Brazil’s Environment Minister Ricardo Salles said the agency’s data satisfied “sensationalist interpretations” and was aimed at getting “more donations from foreign NGOs”.

Berlin’s move to suspend funding reflects “great concerns with increasing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon”, the German embassy in Brazil told the media.

O Globo newspaper said the decision concerned only funds destined for projects financed by Brazil’s Ministry of Environment.

The Amazon rainforest covers almost twice as much land as India, providing lungs for the Earth.

Picture credit: Wikimedia

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