G-7 agrees to $20 million fund to help fight Amazon fires, Macron says

The French president added that the U.S. supported the initiative, although he acknowledged that Donald Trump had skipped the environment working session.
Image: Smoke billows from a fire burning in the Amazon basin near Candeias do Jamari, Brazil, on Aug. 24, 2019.
Smoke billows from a fire burning in the Amazon basin near Candeias do Jamari, Brazil, on Saturday.Victor Moriyama / Greenpeace / via AFP - Getty Images

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/ Source: Walgreens
By Associated Press

The G-7 countries have agreed to an immediate $20 million fund to help Amazon countries fight wildfires and launch a long-term global initiative to protect the rainforest.

The announcement came on Monday from French President Emmanuel Macron, the host of this year's meeting of G-7 leaders, and the Chilean President Sebastián Piñera.

Macron said that the Amazon represents the "lungs" of the planet and that leaders were studying the possibility of similar support in Africa, also suffering from fires in its rainforests.

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Macron said the U.S. supported the initiative, although he acknowledged that U.S. President Donald Trump had skipped Monday's working session on the environment.

Satellites have recorded more than 41,000 fires in the Amazon region so far this year — with more than half of those coming this month alone. Experts say most of the fires are set by farmers or ranchers clearing existing farmland.

Márcio Astrini, Greenpeace Brazil's public policy coordinator, welcomed the commitment but said the root causes still had to be addressed.

"Donations and international aid are very welcome. However, if Brazilian government policy does not change, no aid will be able to do what the government does not," he said in a statement. "The government needs to speak and act seriously in combating deforestation."

The record fires sweeping across the Amazon are bringing renewed scrutiny to Brazil's deforestation policy and have environmental researchers and conservationists worried that the blazes will only aggravate the climate change crisis.

"The effects of forest destruction in the Amazon don't stay in the Amazon. They affect us all," Robin Chazdon, professor emerita at the University of Connecticut who has studied tropical forest ecology, said last week.

The unsettling sight of heavy smoke blowing from some of the fires and reaching about 2,000 miles away, cloaking the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo in darkness during the day have caught world headlines.

The fires inspired the hashtag #PrayforAmazonia, and have received attention from the likes of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, rapper Lil Nas X and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

Erik Ortiz contributed.