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G7 leaders pledge $20.0m emergency fund to fight Amazon fires

Reuters | Published: August 26, 2019 21:02:52 | Updated: September 01, 2019 17:56:01


-Reuters file photo

The leaders of the group of seven nations (G7) have agreed to a deal to provide an immediate $20.0m fund in emergency help to stop the Amazon forest fires, a French presidential source said.

“The reality is that for the emergency aid they especially need financing ... because they don’t have the funds to enable planes, fire-fighting planes to take-off,” the source said, confirming the $20 million figure.

US President Donald Trump did not attend Monday’s crucial discussion on climate and biodiversity at the G7 meeting of international leaders in Biarritz, missing talks on how to deal with the Amazon rainforest fires as well as new ways to cut carbon emissions.

Reporters noticed at the start of the session that the US president’s chair was empty.

Trump was later asked by reporters covering a meeting with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, whether he had attended the climate session.

He replied: “We’re having it in a little while.” He did not appear to hear when a reporter told him it had just taken place.

However, French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed that Trump had not personally attended the climate session but that Trump’s team had been present.

Macron said he had held long and in-depth talks with Trump on the Amazon fires and that the US president “shares our objectives” and was “fully engaged” in the joint G7 effort to help Brazil put out the fires and reforest.

He had placed the climate emergency and protection of biodiversity at the heart of the summit, even before the Amazon rainforest fires.

But just before the session began on Saturday, it appeared that Trump’s entourage felt discussing climate was of little importance, compared with the economy.

Reports in the US said senior Trump aides felt Macron was seeking to embarrass his US counterpart by making the summit focus on “niche issues” such as climate change or gender equality.

Earlier on Sunday, Emmanuel Macron said the leaders of G7 nations were close to an agreement on how to help fight the Amazon forest fires and try to repair the devastation.

“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.

He said the G7 countries comprising the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Britain and Canada, were finalising a possible deal on “technical and financial help”.

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.

An EU 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.

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.

Macron last week accused Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s government of not doing enough to protect the area and of lying about its environmental commitments.

Macron said on Sunday 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.

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