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'Our house is burning': Macron urges G7 leaders to discuss Amazon fire

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'Our house is burning': Macron urges G7 leaders to discuss Amazon fire
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REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
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French President Emmanuel Macron has called on members of the Group of Seven (G7) to discuss the raging wildfires ravaging the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.

"Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest - the lungs which produce 20% of our planet’s oxygen - is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days! #ActForTheAmazon," the president tweeted on Thursday, a few days before the start of the G7 summit in Biarritz.

His sentiment was backed up by Britain's prime minister Boris Johnson, who said he would use the G7 summit to call for a renewed focus on protecting nature, his office said on Friday.

“The prime minister is deeply concerned by the increase in fires in the Amazon rainforest and the impact of the tragic loss of these precious habitats,” said a spokeswoman.

Another French president, Jacques Chirac, made the quote "our house is burning" famous back in 2002 when he alerted other leaders of the dangers of global warming at Johannesburg's Earth Summit.

Bolsonaro hit back at Macron on Twitter saying that the French president shouldn't meddle in Brazil's affairs. He also accused Macron of using a "sensationalist tone" and "fake photos" when referring to the Amazon fires.

"The Brazilian government is open to dialogue, with objective facts and mutual respect," said Bolsonaro in another tweet.

"The suggestion of the French president that Amazon's affairs be discussed at the G7 without the participation of the concerned countries evokes a colonialist mindset," he added.

The Brazilian government said it lacked the resources to fight the wildfires. It had previously told donors that it did not need their money to fight the blaze.

"The Amazon is bigger than Europe, how will you fight criminal fires in such an area?," Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro asked reporters as he left the presidential residence. "We do not have the resources for that."

On Friday the office of French President Emmanuel Macron accused Bolsonaro of "lying" about his commitment to fighting climate change at the G20 summit in Japan in June, a statement from the Elysee said on Friday, reports Reuters.

For this reason, France will be opposed to the EU-Mercosur farming deal between the EU and the Mercosur countries, which include Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Fires in the Amazon are up 83% so far this year compared with the same period a year earlier, government figures showed.

In response to this latest data, Bolsonaro brushed it off and said "it was the season of the queimada", when farmers use fire to clear land. "I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame," Reuters quoted.

Wildfires are common in the dry season but are also known to be deliberately set off by farmers illegally deforesting land for cattle ranching.

It comes as concerns grow over right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro’s stance on the environment.

He took office in January and had vowed to develop the Amazon region for farming and mining, ignoring international concern over increased deforestation.

On Wednesday, Bolsonaro accused NGOs of setting the fires but did not give any supporting evidence.

Asked about his accusation on Thursday, he said he could not prove that NGOs were lighting the fires but that they were "the most likely suspects."

But the Brazilian government is facing growing international criticism over its handling of the Amazon blazes.

Norway and Germany have suspended funding for projects to curb deforestation in Brazil after becoming alarmed by changes to the way projects were selected under Bolsonaro.

When asked about losing German funding, Bolsonaro responded that Brazil didn't need it.

Only last month, Bolsonaro accused the INPE director of lying about the scale of the problem — following that, he was sacked over the row.

“I am waiting for the next set of numbers, that will not be made up numbers. If they are alarming, I will take notice of them in front of you,” Bolsonaro told reporters.

However, the INPE agency's reliability has been defended by scientific institutions, including the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.

Read more: Amazon fires cause activists to protest outside London's Brazilian embassy

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