Science

Amazon's $20million rescue fund branded 'paltry, woeful and a drop in the ocean'


Scientists and environmental charities have slammed the $20 million pledged by G7 nations as ‘paltry’, ‘woeful’ and a ‘drop in the ocean’.

Condemnation of the rescue fund comes a pressure mounts for the UK Government to stop trading with Brazil, a major contributor to the ecological disaster. 

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro has been embroiled in a bitter war of words with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, over the ongoing inferno. 

Bolsonaro has recently announced a U-turn on his refusal to accept the foreign aid but only on the condition he can spend the money on his own terms.  

Experts warn that deforestation, lax legislation and booming agriculture need to be urgently addressed in order to protect the Amazon’s future.

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The number of blazes in Brazil has skyrocketed by 80 per cent this year so far, compared to the same period in 2018, according to data from space research agency INPE. green campaigners and scientists are calling for more to be done to tackle the issue

The number of blazes in Brazil has skyrocketed by 80 per cent this year so far, compared to the same period in 2018, according to data from space research agency INPE. green campaigners and scientists are calling for more to be done to tackle the issue 

Brazilian farmer Helio Lombardo Do Santos and a dog walk through a burnt area of the Amazon rainforest. The fires are not limited to Brazil, with at least 10,000 square kilometres burning in Bolivia

Brazilian farmer Helio Lombardo Do Santos and a dog walk through a burnt area of the Amazon rainforest. The fires are not limited to Brazil, with at least 10,000 square kilometres burning in Bolivia

Dr Luke Parry, senior lecturer at Lancaster University who is currently working in Brazil, told MailOnline: ‘$20million is a paltry offer from the world’s richest countries and probably less than the security cost of hosting a G7 summit.’

Friends of the Earth campaigner Emi Murphy called it ‘a drop in the ocean’ when compared to what is needed to reduce emissions and cope with climate change.

The vast size of the Amazon rainforest and the sheer quantity of the wildfire outbreaks makes halting its spread nigh on impossible. 

Budget cuts to IBAMA, the public body tasked with protecting the wilderness, are also playing an undeniable role in the ongoing crisis. 

Dr Parry revealed the shocking extent of the financial shortage, but says the tumultuous rein of president Jair Bolsonaro is not solely to blame.

Scientists and environmental charities have slammed the $20 million pledged by G7 nations as 'paltry, 'woeful' and a 'drop in the ocean'

Scientists and environmental charities have slammed the $20 million pledged by G7 nations as ‘paltry, ‘woeful’ and a ‘drop in the ocean’

The vast size of the Amazon rainforest and the sheer quantity of the wildfire outbreaks makes halting its spread nigh on impossible. Dr Edward Mitchard, senior lecturer at the university of Edinburgh, told MailOnline it is unlikely Brazil has enough money to improve its protections of the Amazon

The vast size of the Amazon rainforest and the sheer quantity of the wildfire outbreaks makes halting its spread nigh on impossible. Dr Edward Mitchard, senior lecturer at the university of Edinburgh, told MailOnline it is unlikely Brazil has enough money to improve its protections of the Amazon

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Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro has been embroiled in a bitter war of words with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, over the disaster. He has recently announced a U-turn on his refusal to accept the foreign aid but only on the condition he can spend it on his own terms

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro has been embroiled in a bitter war of words with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, over the disaster. He has recently announced a U-turn on his refusal to accept the foreign aid but only on the condition he can spend it on his own terms 

HOW RESPONSIBLE FOR THE AMAZON WILDFIRES IS THE BRAZILIAN GOVERNMENT?

Dr Luke Parry, senior lecturer at Lancaster University who is currently working in Brazil, told MailOnline the issue is vast and multi-faceted but has several central causes.

How much money would you like to see donated to the cause?

‘International donations may make a difference but a much surer bet is if the Brazilian government releases more of its own funds to improve environmental enforcement against landowners illegally logging, deforesting and burning theirs forests, and resources to put out the forest fires. 

‘The Brazilian government has recently pledged to release previously blocked resources to help but this is only a few million dollars and is woefully inadequate. 

‘Virtually all public institutions on Brazil are currently struggling to provide even basic services given half a decade of drastic year on year funding cuts, and more recently, a lack of political will to even allow expenditure of money already allocated to this year’s budget.’

How significant is the role of the Brazilian government in the disaster? 

‘The current fires in Amazonia reflect landowners taking advantage of what they surely consider to be a unique opportunity to illegally clear more of their forest. 

‘They are seizing a historic moment when the legal controls on clearly forest reserves on a property have been delegitimised by the rhetoric of the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. 

‘Farmers realise that even though Brazilian and other satellites will detect new patches of deforestation, there is not the political will or on the ground resources to punish the culprits. 

‘For over 10 years there has been a steady shrinking back of environmental enforcement resources in Brazil, especially outside of protected areas. 

‘For instance, the Amazonian municipality of Altamira is the largest in the world and is bigger than Greece and is currently a hotspot for deforestation and forest fires. 

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‘Shockingly, the Federal enforcement agency IBAMA only has three agents for the entire area. 

‘Two of those are restricted to administrative duties, leaving only one agent on the ground.’ 

‘At a larger scale, the funding and approval for mega-dams was approved by former Presidents Lula and then President Dilma. 

‘A further political legal of Dilma was legal changes to the protected areas legislation which allows for mining activity in protected areas and indigenous lands.’

He told MailOnline: ‘Farmers realise that even though Brazilian and other satellites will detect new patches of deforestation, there is not the political will or on the ground resources to punish the culprits. 

‘For over 10 years there has been a steady shrinking back of environmental enforcement resources in Brazil, especially outside of protected areas. 

‘For instance, the Amazonian municipality of Altamira is the largest in the world and is bigger than Greece and is currently a hotspot for deforestation and forest fires. 

‘Shockingly, the Federal enforcement agency IBAMA only has three agents for the entire area. 

‘Two of those are restricted to administrative duties, leaving only one agent on the ground.’

The driving factor behind this devastation comes down to human actions intended to maximise profit through illegal means. 

To feed a booming population and a swelling economy, Brazil is chopping down the Amazon rainforest and using it for farms. 

This, while widely condemned around the world, is legal in the south American nation as its government has relaxed its own legislation protecting the forest.

Dr Edward Mitchard, senior lecturer at the university of Edinburgh, told MailOnline it is the deforested regions which are causing fires to spread, with the blazes rarely breaching untouched regions of wilderness. 

He said: ‘What is burning is mostly areas where people cut down trees earlier this year, left the cleared land to dry, and are now burning it in order to convert it to pasture.

‘This is used to either grow cattle and crops, or to eventually sell the farm to a large agribusiness company for a profit in a few years. 

‘Once set, stopping these fires is very difficult.’

Agriculture and the desire for more farmland is a clear motivating factor behind the ongoing deforestation and subsequent forest fires. 

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Consumption of Brazilian beef and the sale of products created as a result of deforestation are driving the ongoing issue — as well as political unrest. 

Conservationists, academics and charities are all pushing for tighter restrictions on trade with Brazil. 

Dr Parry said: ‘A significant amount of Brazilian beef is consumed in Europe and this perhaps provides the greatest leverage in finding a medium-to-long term solution. 

‘Consumers and governments should demand tighter controls and greater assurances that our beef has not come from pastures created from illegal deforestation.’

Budget cuts to IBAMA, the public body tasked with protecting the wilderness, are also playing an undeniable role in the ongoing crisis, with an area the size of Greece monitored by just one official

Budget cuts to IBAMA, the public body tasked with protecting the wilderness, are also playing an undeniable role in the ongoing crisis, with an area the size of Greece monitored by just one official 

Ms Murphy added: ‘Cash pledges aren’t enough — pressure must be put on Brazilian president Bolasnaro too.

‘The UK government should suspend trade talks with Brazil until the Amazon and its people are given the protection they need.’ 

Global wildlife and conservation charity the WWF are also pushing for more action to be taken, but acknowledge the $20 million is a step in the right direction. 

Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation for the charity, said: ‘It’s good to see the fate of this vital forest on the global agenda, as well as new commitments of funding, especially from the UK.

‘We cannot protect the world from the worst impacts of climate change if the Amazon burns. But emergency funding to stop the fires now is just the first step. 

‘Long-term, if we want to save the Amazon for future generations, we must tackle the root causes of its destruction, through better control of illegal activities, supporting those who work to protect it and ensuring that our food production does not drive deforestation. 

‘For us in the UK, that means we must end importing commodities that drive deforestation. 

‘To do that, the UK government must ensure all future trade deals are part of the solution, not the problem.’

Conservationists, academics and charities are all pushing for tighter restrictions on trade with Brazil, with some calling for an immediate ban on Brazilian goods

Conservationists, academics and charities are all pushing for tighter restrictions on trade with Brazil, with some calling for an immediate ban on Brazilian goods 



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