Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has called for Joe Biden’s “personal engagement” in fighting deforestation in the Amazon rain forest, in a letter sent to the US President on Wednesday.
In the letter, Bolsonaro said he is committed to eliminating illegal deforestation in the Amazon by 2030. However, he also said that “massive resources” will be needed and the support of “the United States government, the private sector and the American civil society will be very welcome.”
The letter also confirms Bolsonaro’s participation in a virtual climate summit convened by Biden on April 22 and 23. “I pledge my commitment to the pursuit of ambitious commitments and outcomes at the April 22nd summit,” he said.
A senior administration official confirmed to CNN that the White House had received the letter.
“The White House is in receipt of President Bolsonaro’s letter accepting the invitation to participate in the April 22 Leaders’ Summit on Climate. Brazil is one of the world’s top 10 economies, and a regional leader; it has a responsibility to lead,” the senior official said in a statement on Thursday.
The official continued: “We note the importance of Bolsonaro’s participation and welcome Brazil’s commitment to ending illegal deforestation by 2030. We look forward to continuing our dialogue and seeing concrete steps the Government of Brazil will take to reduce deforestation this fire season. Tackling the climate crisis requires global partnerships with big impacts, and Brazil will be a key partner in finding and implementing the solutions to this crisis.”
The US looks forward to continued cooperation with Brazil on environmental issues, “and we look forward to expanding our efforts to address climate change, as well,” the official added.
Bolsonaro’s letter highlights environmental accomplishments by Brazil but admits “we have a major challenge before us, as deforestation rates in the Amazon have increased since 2012.”
It follows the Brazilian government’s announcement this week of a new official plan for reducing deforestation in the Amazon over the next two years – a roadmap which some high-profile environmental advocates in the country have panned as insufficient.
Deforestation has skyrocketed during Bolsonaro’s presidency. In 2019, his first year as President, Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research, which tracks forest loss by satellite, concluded that the Amazon lost 10,129 square kilometers to deforestation – an increase of 34% from the previous year. This March, INPE recorded another 367 square kilometers of deforestation – the worst forest loss in the month of March since 2015.
Though the President has passed several executive orders and laws to protect the Amazon, he has simultaneously slashed funding to government-run environmental protection and monitoring programs, and pushed to open indigenous lands to commercial farming and mining – acts which have cost him credibility among environmentalists in the country.
Last week, a coalition of 198 Brazilian civil society organizations, including environmental and indigenous advocates, released an open letter asking Biden not to trust Bolsonaro on environmental matters and pleading for the US government to engage with local government and civil society groups instead.
Reporting contributed by journalists Fernanda Wenzel in Porto Alegre and Rodrigo Pedroso in Sao Paulo, and by CNN’s Betsy Klein in Washington, Radina Gigova in Atlanta, and Caitlin Hu in New York City.