Amazon fires: France and Ireland threaten to block Brazil trade

Carla Harmon
August 24, 2019

The fires in the world's largest rainforest have sparked protests around the planet and ignited a war of words between Bolsonaro and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, who has described the wildfires as an "international crisis" and vowed to block a trade agreement between the European Union and South American countries.

Forest fires are not uncommon in the Amazon during the dry season, which runs from July to October, and often begins naturally.

In the five days to Wednesday, there were 7,746 fires in Brazil, according to data from the country's National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

"I am very concerned that this year has seen record levels of destruction of Amazonian forests by fire".

The blazes have almost doubled this year compared with the same period in 2018, according to Brazilian officials, prompting a global outcry.

What is responsible for the burning of the biggest rainforest which provides 20 per cent oxygen to the world and is considered as the lungs of Earth?

As global criticism over the wildfires raging through the Amazon grew, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro admitted farmers could be illegally setting the rainforest ablaze but told foreign powers not to interfere.

Some European countries are talking about possibly blocking a free trade deal now under negotiation.

United States superstar Madonna posted the same 1989 image (15) shared by Smith and Djokovic, writing on Instagram: "President Bolsonaro please change your policies and help not only your country but the entire planet".

He tweeted: "Our house is burning".

"These countries that send money here, they don't send it out of charity". They work with locals living directly in the communities affected.

"The entire world demands sensible, intelligent, appropriate governance for the Amazon at the risk of regrettable consequences for our country", Arthur Virgilio Neto said on the sidelines of a United Nations climate change workshop in the northeastern city of Salvador. "We do not have the resources for that".

Soccer's five-time world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo tweeted a widely cited figure that climate scientists say far overstates the actual oxygen produced by the rainforest: "The Amazon Rainforest produces more than 20% of the world's oxygen and it's been burning for the past 3 weeks. The Amazon must be protected".

"Throughout Brazil's history we have had hard situations, but this is the first time we have a situation that was practically and officially fueled by the government", she added.

The vast majority of the fires have been set by loggers and ranchers to clear land for cattle.

Farmers may have had at least tacit encouragement from the firebrand right-wing president.

The unprecedented surge in wildfires has occurred since Bolsonaro took office in January with a vow to develop the Amazon region for farming and mining, ignoring worldwide concern over increased deforestation.

A government spokesperson said: "We are deeply saddened by the increase in fires in the Amazon rainforest ..."

Journalist Sam Cowie has more.

Federal prosecutors in Brazil said they were investigating a spike in deforestation and wildfires raging in the Amazon state of Para to determine whether there has been reduced monitoring and enforcement of environmental protections.

"Colombian authorities are already working to contain the propagation of these fires toward Colombian territory and we are willing to collaborate with our neighbours in this common cause", the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"To the unwary who insist on safeguarding the purposes of the Brazilian Amazon, make no mistake, soldiers will always be alert and vigilant, ready to defend and repel any kind of threat", Pujol said in a speech during a Soldier's Day ceremony in Brasilia.

Shadow trade secretary Mr Gardiner said: "While Bolsonaro lets agribusinesses burn the Amazon, this week a UK Government minister has been busy cosying up to the Brazilian President's officials".

On Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated Macron's stance and said that global cooperation is needed to protect rainforests. This comes after a 278% rise in deforestation last month. The "The Revenant" actor took to Instagram to share his concern.

Some noted that protecting the Amazon benefits the entire world, since the massive rainforest is home to thousands of unique species and plays an important role in mitigating climate change.

Paraguay and Bolivia are battling separate wildfires that have devastated large areas of their rainforests.

Bolsonaro has responded to these claims with accusations of his own, saying that left-wing environmentalists and NGOs have been deliberately starting the fires in order to embarrass him and his government, after funding for conservation was cut.

On Wednesday, the smoke from the fires was so bad that it caused an hour-long blackout in Sao Paulo, located nearly 1,700 miles away.

Other reports by iNewsToday