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G-7 Leaders Pledge Money To Help Amazon Nations Fight Rainforest Blazes, Macron Says

By Merrit Kennedy NPR

Updated at 10:40 a.m. ET

French President Emmanuel Macron says world leaders at the G-7 summit have come to an agreement to provide technical and financial help in combatting massive fires that have swept through the Amazon rainforest.

He said the countries would create a $20 million emergency fund to fight the fires – even as Brazil’s far-right populist president, Jair Bolsonaro, tweeted that the international alliance treats his country “as if we were a colony or no man’s land.”

“France will also offer concrete support with military in the region within the next few hours,” Macron said, according to the BBC. The money will be used mostly to pay for more firefighting planes, the broadcaster reported.

The French president had tweeted an urgent message on Friday as the summit was just about to get underway, calling on fellow leaders to make the fires a priority at their meeting. President Trump was notably absent from the conference focusing on climate and biodiversity on Monday.

A White House spokesperson said that another senior U.S. administration official attended because Trump was meeting with the leaders of Germany and India, NPR’s Frank Langfitt reported from Biarritz, France.

“You shouldn’t interpret the American president’s absence … the U.S. are with us on biodiversity and on the Amazon initiative,” Macron said, according to Langfitt.

Macron’s call for action was echoed on Sunday by Pope Francis who warned “that forest lung is vital for our planet” and prayed that “with the commitment of all … [the fires] might be contained as soon as possible.”

Although Brazil accounts for about 60 percent of the Amazon and has been the focus of international attention, the planet’s largest rainforest extends to eight other countries: Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

Bolsonaro, who has promised to open the Amazon to development, initially dismissed the impact of the fires and then suggested that they might have been set by non-governmental organizations bent on discrediting him.

Many of the fires are thought to have been set by farmers, loggers and ranchers trying to clear land, according to officials, who say Bolsonaro’s attitude about the rainforest may have caused some of them to believe the government was giving a green light to such activity.

After European leaders threatened to end a trade deal with South American countries and thousands showed up for protests across Brazil, Bolsonaro’s government acted on Friday, ordering 44,000 soldiers to help fight the fires. On Sunday, Brazil deployed two C-130s to aid the effort by dropping water to douse the flames.

Brazil’s efforts to control the fires appear to be concentrated in the Amazonian state of Rondonia, which borders Bolivia.

Many Brazilians marched in protest on Sunday against the government’s perceived inaction, coming out by the thousands in Rio de Janeiro and other cities, according to The Associated Press.

There were also anti-G-7 protests over the weekend decrying the lack of action on climate change that were staged near the southwest French coastal city of Biarritz, where the summit was held.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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