Brazil bows to investor pressure, bans setting fires in Amazon

Investors have warned they will pull funds out of Brazil if the government does not protect the rainforest.

Brazil rainforest
Billows of smoke rise over a deforested plot of the Amazon jungle in Rondonia State, Brazil, where the number of fires in the Amazon rainforest increased 30 percent last year, according to Brazil's space research agency INPE [File: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters]

Brazil’s government announced on Thursday it planned to ban setting fires in the Amazon for 120 days, in a meeting with global investors to address their rising concerns over destruction of the rainforest.

Vice President Hamilton Mourao told reporters that he invited investors in the video conference to help finance conservation of the forest, but he said they did not commit any funds and want to see results first.

Investors have warned they will put investments in Brazil on hold, or even pull existing ones out, if the government of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro does not act to protect the world’s largest tropical rainforest that is seen as vital to curb global warming.

Mourao said Brazil was being unfairly criticised over Amazon deforestation, which has surged since Bolsonaro took office last year. The vice president said the government had inherited understaffed environmental agencies.

Mourao said the government does not have enough personnel to stop outsiders from entering one million square kilometres (about 386,000 square miles) of protected Indigenous lands that are being increasingly invaded by illegal loggers and gold miners.

Public health experts and anthropologists fear the invaders are spreading the coronavirus – which could decimate Amazon tribes.

The Brazilian government has started new talks with donors Norway and Germany on the Amazon Fund and he expects they will overcome differences over policy that last year stalled funding of sustainability projects.

Minister of Agriculture Tereza Cristina says foreign investors were worried a bill granting title to land in the Amazon that is currently under consideration in Congress would increase deforestation. She said that was a distortion.

Mourao said the decree banning fires for 120 days would be issued next week.

The number of fires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest increased 30 percent last year, according to Brazil’s space research agency INPE. In June, government data showed last week, the number of fires rose 20 percent to a 13-year-high for the month.

Source: Reuters