Wildfires rage in the Amazon

9:55 a.m. ET, August 23, 2019

The German government says "frightening" Amazon fires should be discussed at G7

The German government backs France's Emmanuel Macron’s calls to discuss the Amazon forest fires at the G7, calling them "frightening and threatening." 

The extent of the fires has global impacts, Steffen Seibert, a government spokesperson said. The Amazon "is a highly important element in our global system and essential for ecosystem. So it makes sense it call it the green lungs of the world," he said.

The French President has the chancellor “completely on his side” in calling for the fires in the Amazon region to be on the agenda of the G7, according to Seibert.

Earlier today, Brazilian President Bolsonaro criticized Macron’s call to raise the issue at the G7, saying that “the suggestion of the French president that Amazonian issues be discussed in the G7 without countries in the region participating is reminiscent of a colonial mindset inappropriate in the 21st century.”

9:54 a.m. ET, August 23, 2019

Finland calls for EU to "urgently review" imports of Brazilian beef due to Amazon fires

Finland’s Finance Minister Mika Lintila is calling for the European Union to "urgently review the possibility of banning Brazilian beef imports."

Finland’s Prime Minister Antti Rinne also called the situation in the Amazon, “extremely serious,” and suggested the EU will take action soon.

“I contacted the European Commission yesterday evening,” Rinne said in a statement released today. “And I expect that the EU will take action today. The Finnish Government is following the events very closely.”

Finland currently holds the rotating Presidency of the European Council.

10:25 a.m. ET, August 23, 2019

President Macron opposes trade deal with Mercosur, accuses Brazil's Bolsonaro of "lying"

French President Emmanuel Macron opposes a trade deal between the European Union and Mercosur — the South American trade block — after accusing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro of "lying" to him on his climate commitments, the Elysée Palace confirmed to CNN.

Here's what Elysée said in a statement:

“Given Brazil's attitude in recent weeks, the President of the Republic can only note that President Bolsonaro lied to him at the Summit in Osaka.”

The Elysée was referring to commitments on climate and biodiversity that President Bolsonaro made during the G20 Osaka Summit held in June, which President Macron made a precondition to any trade deal with the EU.

More context: The Amazon is currently facing record-breaking wildfires. Bolsonaro has suggested ranchers clearing land and NGOs hostile to his presidency may be the cause of these fires. However, environmental organizations have previously said the wildfires began with increased land-clearing and logging that was encouraged by the country’s pro-business president.

10:25 a.m. ET, August 23, 2019

British prime minister calls for international action to protect the world's rainforests

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said international cooperation to protect rainforests is needed, given the increase in fires in the Amazon rainforest, a Downing Street spokesperson told CNN today.

The spokesperson said the prime minister “is deeply concerned by the increase in fires in the Amazon rainforest and the impact of the tragic loss of these previous habitats.”

Downing Street believes that “we need international action to protect the world’s rainforests” and that Boris Johnson “will use G7 to call for a renewed focus on protecting nature and tackling climate change together.”

Earlier on Friday, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said that he would be ready to block an EU/Mercosur trade deal unless Brazil acted on the Amazon.

10:25 a.m. ET, August 23, 2019

Ireland ready to block EU trade deal unless Brazil acts

Ireland is ready to block a trade deal between the European Union and Mercosur unless Brazil takes action on the Amazon forest, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said today.

In a statement, Varadkar says the Mercosur deal is two years away and Ireland will monitor Brazil’s environmental actions to determine whether to block the deal. 

He added Irish and European farmers could not be told to use fewer pesticides and respect biodiversity when trade deals were being made with countries not subjected to “decent environmental, labour and product standards.”

More context: Wildfires are raging at a record rate in Brazil's Amazon rainforest. Environmental organizations and researchers say the wildfires were set by cattle ranchers and loggers who want to clear and utilize the land, emboldened by the country's president.

9:23 a.m. ET, August 23, 2019

Shakira tweets about the fires in her "beloved Brazil"

Colombian pop star Shakira tweeted that it's time to "speak up and stop the deforestation of the Amazon."

"The home of our people and our fauna should be protected. The Amazon is ours, is everyone’s!" she added.

Here's the tweet:

9:22 a.m. ET, August 23, 2019

Bolsonaro suggests ranchers clearing land may be a cause of Amazon fires

In a Facebook live video last night, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro suggested multiple parties could be behind the forest fires raging in the Amazon, including ranchers, a political bloc often aligned with the far-right president.

“Who carries this out? I don’t know. Farmers, NGOs, whoever it may be, Indians, whoever it may be,” Bolsonaro said.

Bolsonaro went on to say there are “suspicions” that ranchers are behind the forest fires and appealed to the Brazilian people to “help us” combat the fires. 

“The consequences are for everyone. If (ranchers) want to expand productive land, that’s ok,” he said, though immediately added those actions would be counter-productive to the new and likely long-term problems of wildfires. 

More context: Environmental organizations and others have previously said the wildfires began with increased land-clearing and logging that was encouraged by the country’s pro-business president. Amnesty International on Thursday said the responsibility for the fires that have been raging for weeks in the Amazon “lies squarely with President Bolsonaro and his government,” adding that his government’s “disastrous policy of opening up the rainforest for destruction [is] what has paved the way for this current crisis.”

9:22 a.m. ET, August 23, 2019

Brazil’s president says his country lacks resources to combat wildfires

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Thursday his country lacks the resources to combat the raging wildfires in the Amazon.

“The Amazon is bigger than Europe. How are you going to fight criminal fires in this area?” Bolsonaro said.

He also said the Ministry of Justice lacked enough staff to investigate how the fires began.

On Wednesday, Bolsonaro suggested non-governmental organizations may have started the fires. He continued this line of reasoning on Thursday, saying the fires are related to environmentalists’ opposition to his government.

 “The NGOs lost money, the money that came from Norway and Germany to here. They’re unemployed. What do they need to do? Try to overthrow me,” he told reporters in Brasilia.

More context: The Amazon rainforest is about two-thirds the size of continental Europe. The Amazon covers 6.7 million square kilometers (2.5 million square miles), according to the World Wildlife Fund, while continental Europe covers 9.9 million square kilometers (3.8 million square miles), according to the Central Intelligence Agency.

9:21 a.m. ET, August 23, 2019

France's Macron wants to talk about the Brazil wildfires at G7 summit. Here's what Bolsonaro thinks about that.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tweeted Thursday that France's President Emmanuel Macron is attempting to raise the issue of the wildfires in Brazil at the G7 Summit "for personal political gains."

“I regret that President Macron is seeking to instrumentalize an internal issue in Brazil and in other Amazonian countries for personal political gains. The sensationalist tone that he uses to refer to the Amazon (even appealing to fake photos) does not contribute anything toward solving this problem.”

“The Brazilian government continues to be open to dialogue on the basis of objective data and on mutual respect. The suggestion of the French president that Amazonian issues be discussed in the G7 without countries in the region participating is reminiscent of a colonial mindset inappropriate in the 21st century.” 

More context: On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron joined the international outcry over the wildfires in the Amazon rainforest on Thursday, calling them an “international crisis”. “Our house is on fire. Literally,” Macron tweeted. “The Amazon, the lungs of our planet which produces 20% of our oxygen, is on fire. This is an international crisis.” He added: “G7 members, meet in two days to discuss this emergency."

Here's Bolsonaro's tweet responding to Macron: