Bolsonaro slams Biden’s plan to stop Amazon deforestation

Simone Iglesias and Shannon Sims

President Jair Bolsonaro hit back against U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden’s suggestion that Brazil could suffer economic consequences if it does not stop Amazon deforestation, calling it a “shame” and “a sign of contempt.”

Biden said in Tuesday’s debate that, if elected president, his administration would rejoin the Paris Agreement and rally wealthy nations to protect Brazil’s rainforest as part of a greater effort to combat climate change.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends the launch of the Mining and Development Program in this Sept. 28, 2020, file photo.

“What some have not yet understood is that Brazil has changed,” Bolsonaro, a close ally of President Donald Trump, wrote Wednesday on social media. “Its President, unlike the left-wing presidents of the past, does not accept bribes, criminal land demarcations or coward threats towards our territorial and economic integrity.”

He added that Brazil’s “sovereignty is non-negotiable” and that the “greed of some countries towards the Amazon is a well-known fact.”

The Biden campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the first presidential debate with President Donald Trump Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Since taking office in 2019, Bolsonaro has clashed with the international community over his controversial environmental policies, which included defunding enforcement agencies, firing chief scientists and questioning the government’s own deforestation data. As pressure from foreign investors and governments mounted on his administration, he switched strategies and has started calling on the private sector to help protect the Amazon.

Record Fires

Bolsonaro wrote that his government was putting forth “unprecedented” measures to safeguard the Amazon and the environment, including through negotiations with Trump.

Yet the South American nation is recording accelerating deforestation in parts of the country this year, with the Pantanal – a vast wetland known as a cradle for endangered species in western Brazil – burning at a record pace. In just the first two weeks of September, over 5,000 heat points were reported in the Pantanal biome, the most for that period since 2007. So far this year, the number of fires there is 208% higher than in 2019, according to Brazil’s Spatial Research Institute.

During Tuesday’s presidential debate, Biden said he would join forces with other countries to tell Brazil: “Here’s $20 billion, stop – stop tearing down the forest. And if you don’t, then you’re going to have significant economic consequences.”

Environmental Minister Ricardo Salles said in a text message Wednesday that $20 billion only covers part of the $100 billion committed by developed countries in measures to combat climate change in developing nations as part of the Paris Agreement.