BRASILIA, Brazil: The Brazilian Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni shot down an offer of US $22m by G7 countries to contain fires in the Amazon forest by asking them to use the amount to ‘reforest Europe’.
“Thanks, but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe,” Lorenzoni said while dismissing the offer.
“Macron cannot even avoid a predictable fire in a church (Notre-Dame cathedral) that is part of the world’s heritage, and he wants to give us lessons for our country?” Lorenzoni retorted while speaking to media.
He further added that Brazil could teach ‘any nation’ how to protect native forests.
French President Emmanuel Macron had said $22m would be released, “Funds would be made available immediately – primarily to pay for more fire-fighting planes – and that France would also offer concrete support with military in the region,”
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reacted by blasting Macron for having a ‘colonialist mentality’.
Bolsonaro has accused the French president of launching “unreasonable and gratuitous attacks against the Amazon region”, and “hiding his intentions behind the idea of an ‘alliance’ of G7 countries”.
The president had tweeted on Sunday that he had accepted an offer of support from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
His Defence Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva said the blazes in the Amazon forest were not out of control and 44,000 soldiers had been deployed to contain the fires and environmental crimes in the region.
Despite president’s comments, Environment Minister Ricardo Salles had initially told the reporters that the funding was ‘welcome’.
Amazon has witnessed record number of fires in Brazil according to the country’s space research agency, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE).
Wildfires are a common occurrence in the dry season in Brazil, however satellite data published by INPE has shown an increase of 85% this year.
President Macron last week described the fires as an “international crisis”.
As criticism mounted last week, Finland’s finance minister suggested that the European Union should consider banning Brazilian beef imports.
Critics have accused Bolsonaro of making deforestation worse in the Amazon through anti-environmental rhetoric and by emboldening miners and loggers who deliberately start fires to deforest land illegally.
Neighbouring Bolivia is also struggling to contain fires in its forests.
Bolivian President Evo Morales suspended his re-election campaign and said he was prepared to accept international help to tackle the infernos in his country.
Amazon is the largest rain forest in the world and an important carbon sink that inhibits global warming. Though it covers several countries, 60% of it falls within Brazil.
It is also known as the ‘lungs of the world’ for its role in producing oxygen after ridding the atmosphere of carbon dioxide.
The rain forest is home to about three million species of plants and animals and covers roughly 3 million square kilometres, an area larger than the combined area of European Union.