French President Emmanuel Macron has said the leaders of the world’s major industrialised nations were close to an agreement on how to help fight the Amazon forest fires and try to repair the devastation.
A record number of fires are ravaging the rainforest, many of them in Brazil, drawing international concern because of the Amazon’s importance to the global environment.
“There’s a real convergence to say: ‘Let’s all agree to help those countries hit by these fires’,” he told reporters in Biarritz, which is hosting the annual summit of leaders from the Group of Seven nations, on Sunday.
Macron shunted the Amazon fires to the top of the summit agenda after declaring them a global emergency and kicked off discussions about the disaster at a welcome dinner for fellow leaders on Saturday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said her country and others will talk to Brazil about reforestation in the Amazon once fires there have been extinguished.
“Of course [this is] Brazilian territory, but we have a question here of the rainforests that is really a global question,” she said.
“The lung of our whole Earth is affected, and so we must find common solutions.”
US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had earlier offered their countries’ assistance.
Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Sunday he would accept international help to combat wildfires raging in the country’s southeast as he suspended his election campaign to deal with the crisis.
A European Union official, who declined to be named, said the G7 leaders had agreed to do everything they could to help tackle the fires, giving Macron a mandate to contact all the countries in the Amazon region to see what was needed.
“It was the easiest part of the talks,” the official said.
Last week, Macron accused Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s government of not doing enough to protect the area and of lying about its environmental commitments.
His comments earned a swift rebuke from Bolsonaro, who called it an “internal issue” and said the French leader’s suggestion evoked “a colonialist mentality that is out of place in the 21st century”.
On Sunday, Macron said world powers needed to be ready to help with reforestation but acknowledged there were different views over this aspect, without going into details.
“There are several sensitivities which were raised around the table because all of that also depends on the Amazon countries,” he said, adding that the world’s biggest rainforest was vital to the future of the planet.
“While respecting sovereignty, we must have a goal of reforestation and we must help each country to develop economically,” he said.
On Sunday, Brazil deployed two C-130 Hercules aircraft to douse fires devouring parts of the rainforest.
Dozens of firefighters were also deployed to help put out the blaze, while Brazil’s Justice Minister Sergio Moro also gave the green light for the deployment of security forces to tackle illegal deforestation in the region.
The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and its protection is seen as vital to the fight against climate change because of the vast amounts of carbon dioxide it absorbs.
Aerial picture showing smoke from a two-kilometre-long stretch of fire billowing from the Amazon rainforest about 65 km from Porto Velho [File: AFP]