US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has announced that the United States will soon launch an Amazon-wide regional pact to reduce deforestation, a significant contributor to climate change.
On a visit to Colombia, ahead of next week’s high-stakes United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Blinken toured a greenhouse in Bogota’s botanical gardens on Thursday, where he saw US-backed projects to encourage chocolate, tourism and other industries that offer an alternative to logging.
“By conserving Colombia’s forests, promoting more sustainable agriculture, we can make major strides in dealing with the climate crisis as well,” he said.
Blinken said the US would finalise “in the coming days” a “new regional partnership specifically focused on addressing commodity-driven deforestation”.
The initiative will “provide actionable information to companies so that they can really reduce their reliance on deforestation,” Blinken said.
He added that the pact would also include financial support to help manage protected Indigenous areas and support the livelihood of farmers.
Rainforests are crucial for the environment because they serve as huge carbon sinks, but greenhouse gas emissions from burning and industrial-scale agriculture in the Amazon account for higher total annual emissions than those of Italy or Spain.
By far the largest Amazon nation is Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro has championed big agriculture in the forest.
President Joe Biden’s administration has been courting Brazil ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow in hopes of making progress, with Blinken declining during his Bogota visit to answer a question about concerns on Bolsonaro’s record.
Colombia, a close US ally, has some of the most ambitious climate goals in Latin America, with President Ivan Duque aiming for zero deforestation by 2030.
Blinken, who hailed Duque during his visit despite criticism by some on the US left of his record on police brutality, said that the president has shown “remarkable leadership” on climate and that “Team Colombia is very much present” ahead of Glasgow.
“The core focus of this trip for me, my first trip to South America as secretary of state is how we can make democracies deliver for our people,” he said. “That is our common challenge. It’s our common responsibility. And that’s true in our countries and it’s true across the hemisphere.”
Blinken called for global cooperation to confront common challenges, including climate change.
“No country, no group of countries even, can do enough alone to limit the Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which the science tells us is our ceiling, if we want to avoid catastrophe,” he said.
Earlier on Thursday, the Biden administration released a series of reports from US intelligence and security agencies sounding the alarm about the threats that the effects of climate change pose to global stability and US national security.
“We assess that climate change will increasingly exacerbate risks to US national security interests as the physical impacts increase and geopolitical tensions mount about how to respond to the challenge,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in the first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on Climate Change.