Sun, Sep 08, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Seven countries ink pact, vow to protect Amazon

DISASTER RESPONSE:The group agreed to improve cooperation when fighting large-scale fires, work on reforestation and increase indigenous groups’ roles

Reuters, LETICIA, Colombia

Colombian President Ivan Duque, center left, speaks at a summit of regional leaders in Leticia, Colombia, on Friday.

Photo: Reuters / Colombian Presidency

Seven Amazonian countries on Friday signed a pact to protect the world’s largest tropical forest via disaster response coordination and satellite monitoring, amid fires that have torched thousands of square kilometers of the jungle.

The presidents of Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, the vice-president of Suriname and the natural resources minister of Guyana attended the  one-day summit in the jungle city of Leticia in southern Colombia.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro participated by video link, while Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araujo attended in person.

“This meeting will live on as a coordination mechanism for the presidents that share this treasure — the Amazon,” Colombian President Ivan Duque said at the signing, adding that the countries would meet again at the UN Climate Change conference in December.

“Goodwill alone is not enough anymore,” Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra added.

The countries are to create a natural disaster network so they can better cooperate in the face of events like large-scale fires, the pact said.

The group would also work on reforestation initiatives, increase efforts to monitor deforestation activity via satellite, develop education initiatives and increase the role of indigenous communities in sustainable development, it said.

The countries agreed to share information on activities such as illegal mining that hurt conservation, it added.

The group would “work together to strengthen the programs and financial mechanisms, reiterate the commitments made by countries in these scenarios, mobilize public and private resources, including the multilateral banks, as appropriate, for the implementation of this pact,” the agreement said.

Bolsonaro said in his remarks during the meeting that the pact was an affirmation of each country’s sovereignty.

Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno opened the meeting by singing Padre, a song by Spanish singer Joan Manuel Serrat about environmental destruction.

Forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon have this year surged in number by 83 percent, according to government data, destroying vast swathes of a vital bulwark against global climate change.

About 60 percent of the forest is within Brazil’s borders. The Amazon is also home to about 1 million people who are members of 500 indigenous groups.

Fires have also raged in the past few weeks in Bolivia.

Bolsonaro initially accused non-governmental organizations of setting the fires, without providing any evidence, while environmentalists have warned that his plans for more agriculture and mining in the region would speed up deforestation.

The far-right firebrand engaged in a public war of words with French President Emmanuel Macron, who called for more to be done to combat the fires.

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