Environmental campaigners dismiss G7 pledge of £16 million for Amazon fires as ‘inadequate’ 

Environmental groups on Monday dismissed a G7 pledge of £16 million to fight fires engulfing vast expanses of the Amazon as “inadequate”.

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, who hosted a three-day summit of the world’s seven major industrialised countries in the coastal resort of Biarritz, said the world’s largest rainforest was the “lung” of the Earth. “We must respond to the call of the forest which is burning today in the Amazon,” he said.

The emergency aid is to go mainly towards fire-fighting planes, but Greenpeace France said: “The response is inadequate given the urgency and magnitude of this environmental disaster.”

 

The package was agreed a day after Boris Johnson announced that Britain alone would give £10 million towards the longer-term restoration of the world’s biggest rainforest – a much larger contribution in relative terms.

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An environmental group headed by Leonardo di Caprio, the Hollywood star, has also pledged $5 million (£4.1 million).

Clément Sénéchal of Greenpeace France said: “No global vision on the struggle against climate change came out of this summit of the world’s most powerful heads of state.”

A statement by the group described Mr Macron’s promises to tackle climate change as “smoke and mirrors”.

It was unclear on Monday night if Brazil would cooperate with the G7’s move, even as hundreds of new fires were reportedly breaking out. After it was announced, Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian president, accused rich countries of treating the region like a “colony or no-man’s land”.

NASA Earth Observatory map shows active fire detections in South AmericaCredit:
AFP

In a social media tirade, he said that respecting national sovereignty “is the least one can expect in a civilised world”.

Satellites have spotted more than 77,000 fires in the Amazon since January, an 85 per cent increase from last year.

Experts have blamed Mr Bolsonaro for allowing farmers and ranchers to clear forest for crops or grazing.

The approval rating of his eight-month-old government has plunged to 29.4 per cent in August from 38.9 per cent in February, according to a poll released on Monday. Disapproval of his personal performance as president rose to 53.7 per cent from 28.2 per cent.

Donald Trump, the US president, left his chair empty at the climate session where the aid package was agreed, although it was a priority issue for the summit. Mr Macron said Mr Trump agreed on the initiative but could not attend because of bilateral meeting engagements.

Mr Macron said he hoped to defuse escalating tension with Iran over its nuclear programme by brokering a meeting between Mr Trump and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, “in the coming weeks”.

French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Donald Trump Credit:
REUTERS

Mr Trump caused consternation among his European allies by pulling out of a 2015 international agreement placing limits on Tehran’s nuclear activities in return for trade and investment.

Mr Macron expressed optimism that a new agreement could be reached, and Mr Trump said he might be willing to meet Mr Rouhani. “If the circumstances were correct, I would certainly agree to that but in the meantime they [the Iranians] have to be good players," he said.

Mr Trump said Mr Macron had informed him in advance that he was going to hold talks with Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, who made a surprise visit to Biarritz on Saturday.

Mr Macron said the talks had laid the groundwork for a Trump-Rouhani meeting.

He and Mr Trump emphasised that the G7 leaders shared the common goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. There is “great unity”, Mr Trump said. “We’ve come to a conclusion, more or less.”

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, was less upbeat about the prospects of a diplomatic breakthrough. “We all have a big interest in a peaceful solution to the Iran situation, but it won’t be easy,” she said.

U.S. President Donald Trump meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel for bilateral talks during the G7 summit in BiarritzCredit:
REUTERS

Mr Trump campaigned at the summit to host the 2020 G7 at one of his golf resorts, the Trump National Doral in Florida. He denied accusations that he was seeking to divert taxpayers’ cash into his own coffers. “I’m not going to make any money. I don’t want to make money,” he told a press conference as the summit closed.  

France and the US also reached a deal on the sidelines of the summit to end a bitter dispute over a French tax on digital giants such as Google and Facebook, Mr Macron said. Mr Trump had threatened to hit back by imposing tariffs on French wine. Mr Macron said companies that pay the tax would be able to deduct the amount once a new international deal on how to tax internet companies is found next year.

Mr Trump appeared to soften his tone on his trade war with China during the summit, saying he was ready to return to the negotiating table. “I think they [the Chinese] want to make a deal very badly."

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