U.S. considers aid to preserve Amazon rainforest, Brazil hopes other countries will join

By Edgar Maciel

U.S. considers aid to preserve Amazon rainforest, Brazil hopes other countries will join

Brazil is likely to receive funds from the U.S. to protect and conserve the Amazon rainforest. U.S. President Joe Biden and Brazil’s newly elected President Luiz Inacio Lula discussed this issue during a meeting in Washington earlier this month. “The United States announced its intent to work with Congress to provide funds for programs to protect and conserve the Brazilian Amazon, including initial support for the Amazon Fund,” read a joint statement published by the White House after the two leaders had met.

Although it is largely believed that the funds will be lower than those provided by European countries, experts praised the contribution from the U.S. for its potential to persuade other developed countries to follow suit.

Brazil’s no-deforestation commitment

The announcement was made as Lula reiterated his commitment to zero deforestation in the Amazon rainforest by 2030 and demanded resources from more developed nations to help with protection and preservation projects in countries with tropical forests.

Lula used almost half of his opening speech to Biden to say that the environmental and climate issue must be urgently addressed because the future of humanity depends on it.

“In recent years, the Amazon has been invaded by political irrationality and human irrationality because we had a president who ordered deforestation, ordered mining to enter indigenous areas, and ordered mining in the forests that we demarcated as reserves in the Amazon,” he said.

U.S. contribution a sign of “unprecedented partnership”

Despite Biden’s promising announcement, the value of an eventual donation to Brazil’s Amazon Fund was not announced. Based on past facts, it is expected that the U.S. contribution will be relatively low compared to the average of European countries. Nevertheless, the Brazilian authorities noted that what matters was Biden’s commitment to work with other G7 countries to contribute to the Amazon Fund rather than the U.S. contribution as such.

“This indication of the contribution of the United States is a sign of an unprecedented partnership between the two countries, Biden seems willing to treat Brazil horizontally, as an equal, especially when it comes to climate change, where the South American country has a decisive relevance for the climate future,” commented political analyst, Vinicius Vieira.

Amazon Fund gets new donors

As one of the new government’s first measures, President Lula reactivated the Amazon Fund, which is managed by the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES).

The fund had been frozen since 2018 throughout the administration of former President Jair Bolsonaro, known for his forest-destruction policies. By 2018, the fund had reached 4.3 billion reais (US$831 million) mainly from Norway and Germany, with Norway clearly having the upper hand by contributing over 90% of the funds.

Shortly after the reactivation of the fund, Germany made a new deposit of 192 million reais (US$37 million) and France and Spain have announced their readiness to contribute to the fund in the near future. The United Kingdom and Canada have also indicated that they may contribute to the fund in the future.
During the Fund’s first meeting since it reopened, BNDES President Aloizio Mercadante said that it had already received 3.3 billion reais in donations (US$638 million). In total, the fund has now accumulated 5.4 billion reais (US$1.04 billion).

“These funds are very important because they are applied to actions such as monitoring deforestation, managing public forests and recovering deforested areas. Only with them will Brazil be able to reverse the upward trend in deforestation of the last government and meet its current goals to combat global warming,” assessed Isabel Garcia, climate and emissions manager at Imaflora.

Why does the Amazon matter?

The Amazon rainforest covers an area of about 7 million square kilometres in South America, 60% of which are in Brazil. It is believed to store around 76 billion tons of carbon and its 390 billion trees are estimated to generate over 50% of the rain falling in the Amazon region. Moreover, the Amazon river that flows along the rainforest contains about 20% of the world’s fresh water. The rainforest is also home to about 30% of the terrestrial plant, animal, and insect species.

Despite the general understanding that the destruction of the Amazon rainforest will deal a severe blow to biodiversity, fueling climate change, the region has been subject to large-scale deforestation over the past years in response to the agro-industrial and mining policies of former President Bolsonaro. According to Brazil’s National Space and Research Institute, during Bolsonaro’s 2019-2022 mandate, the rainforest lost 45,586 square kilometres, or 53% more compared to 2012-2018.