By Jake Spring and Catarina Demony
MADRID (Reuters) – France and a group of Brazilian states plan to announce a partnership to preserve the Amazon rainforest, the group’s leader said on Monday, bypassing Brazil’s federal government after a spat between the presidents of the two countries.
Amapa state Governor Waldez Goes, who heads the consortium of the nine states that comprise Brazil’s vast Amazon region, told Reuters that the partnership would be announced at the U.N. climate summit in Madrid this week and would include other initiatives aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Fires in Brazil’s section of the rainforest, which accounts for 60% of the overall Amazon and is seen as a bulwark against climate change, surged in August to their highest point since 2010. The widespread blazes provoked an international outcry that Brazil was not doing enough to protect its forest.
French President Emmanuel Macron called for urgent actions to be taken on the fires, rapidly becoming embroiled in a war of words with Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro.
Macron accused Bolsonaro of lying to world leaders about Brazil’s commitment to preserving the environment. Bolsonaro at one point insulted Macron’s wife and said he would only accept $20 million in aid offered by the G7 group of wealthy nations if Macron withdrew his “insults.”
Macron said he thought Brazilian women must be ashamed of Bolsonaro, and suggested he was not up to the job of president.
Goes said the nine Brazilian states would announce a mechanism on Tuesday to allow foreign countries to contribute directly to state-level projects to preserve the Amazon.
He said that they had approached several European countries about funding such efforts.
The non-binding partnership with France could lay the groundwork for the country to provide eventual financial support to the states’ environmental projects, he said. It was not clear whether talks will advance far enough at the summit for France to announce an amount that it would contribute, Goes added.
A spokesman for the French delegation at the conference declined to immediately comment.
Environmentalists blame Bolsonaro for Amazon deforestation hitting an 11-year high as he has prioritised economic development of the rainforest over conservation.
“The Brazilian President has in his official agenda the exploitation of the Amazon,” said Nara Bare, a Brazilian indigenous representative at a protest outside the two-week climate summit in Madrid, which is due to conclude on Friday.
Bolsonaro has said the media has sensationalized the Amazon fires and demonized him.
(Reporting by Jake Spring and Catarina Demony; Editing by Mark Heinrich)