How to fight the fires in the Amazon?

With the Amazon region facing the worst fires in years, Brazil's government has banned slash-and-burn clearance in the dry season. The G7 states offered financial support to fight the fires but Bolsonaro said he would only take the money if Macron apologised for accusing him of lying about his commitments to environmental protection.

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Much ado about a bit of forest identifies two camps in the dispute over the Amazon fires:

“The supporters of the theory of a looming climate catastrophe on the one hand, and on the other those who don't believe in the apocalyptic predictions and who simply want to bolster the regional economy. ... The French President Emmanuel Macron is the leader of the first camp, while his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro has already threatened to withdraw his country from the Paris Climate Agreement. ... What many people are not saying is that the number of forest fires worldwide has dropped in recent decades - by 24 percent between 1998 and 2015, according to Nasa. In the same period the planet's forest resources have grown considerably. ... But simple botany is far less prestigious than saving the world from a looming catastrophe.”

Evenimentul Zilei (RO) /

Why Macron is not mentioning the other fires

Evenimentul Zilei accuses the French president of focussing too much on Brazil:

“The rainforests are burning. But the fires in the Siberian Taiga, California and sub-Saharan Africa are every bit as disastrous. Yet Macron hasn't said a word about them. And it's easy to see why. Siberia lies in Putin's Russia - and Macron is currently lobbying for Putin to be reinstated in the G7. California is in Trump's US - and Macron wants to avoid a faux pas similar to last year's, when the American president refused to sign the concluding document at the summit in Canada because he was in a huff about a silly remark made by Justin Trudeau. Sub-Saharan Africa, for its part, lies in Macron's own zone of influence. And it would be very odd if he gave himself a kick in the rear end.”

Právo (CZ) /

Meat guzzling Europe must do more

There is no simple solution for the Amazon, Právo fears:

“The rainforest has to make way for the Brazilian cattle earmarked for the European market. An export ban, as Finland is proposing, would only hurt the Brazilian farmers. We need an economic and ecological alternative. Brazil generated 6.5 billion dollars last year with cattle. That's peanuts compared with the EU's agricultural spending of 50 billion dollars. Helping out would pay off. If we were just a little rational about our consumption, Europe would not even have to give up beef.”

Slate (FR) /

Business is the solution

Those who really want to do something for the rainforest should work together with the Brazilian companies responsible for the deforestation, writes Robert Muggah of think tank Igarapé Institute in Slate:

“Take the meat production industry. At first glance it doesn't look like an ideal candidate for a progressive policy. But the international import-export companies increasingly want to make their logistics chains more environmentally friendly because of the reactions of the customers consuming their products all over the world who are not indifferent to the fate of the Amazon. The Brazilian meat producers are well aware of this because the big chains that market their products - Carrefour, Casino, Walmart and others - are foreign (and in principle want to respect the standards for reducing CO2 emissions).”

Expresso (PT) /

If oxygen were a commodity

The fires are a problem that affect us all, Expresso stresses:

“The world has an obligation to help Brazil preserve the Amazon. And it must propose measures that show Bolsonaro that either he takes action to protect what belongs to the whole planet or the whole planet will isolate him and bring him to his knees. If air were a commodity the troops of an international coalition would have already arrived in Brazil. ... Bolsonaro is no longer attacking 'only' Brazilian democracy, the indigenous peoples, the rule of law or homosexuals. He is attacking us all.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Europeans need to get their act together first

The Brazilian president has dismissed the efforts of the G7 to save the Amazon as neocolonialism. De Volkskrant sees his point:

“The Bolsanaro government likes to point out that Europe itself has destroyed plenty of forests for economic purposes - but now that Brazilian farmers are doing the same, it is crying blue murder. Of course the Amazon is a special case, in view of the vast amounts of CO2 it absorbs. But such arguments make it clear that the accusation of neocolonialism is not just plucked out of thin air. ... There is only one way Macron can rebut the accusation: by implementing - in his own country and together with all wealthy countries - an effective climate policy and supporting the poor parts of the world in developing a sustainable and prosperous economy.”

Tageblatt (LU) /

Stop supporting trade in cars and meat

The full scale of the EU's contradictory attitude towards South America is now being revealed, Tageblatt writes:

“Sustainable development is a key component of the free trade deal between the EU and Mercosur. ... At the same time the deal stipulates that the Mercorsur states abolish import duties on European industrial goods like cars and car parts. ... Yet as we all know, cars are the main cause of CO2 emissions. ... The EU position on the import of South American beef is similarly hypocritical. While the farmers in Europe are rightly being encouraged to convert to organic agriculture, the EU promotes conventional intensive livestock farming in South America. ... It is sad that the tropics have to burn for the EU to realise how contradictory its economic policy is.”

Upsala Nya Tidning (SE) /

Natinonal interests versus global responsibility

The fires in the Amazon symbolise the key question humanity faces, stresses Upsala Nya Tidning:

“The big question in the coming decades will be who holds the rights to the resources that are vital for humanity's survival. The Amazon is one of those resources, as are the regions around the North and South Pole. It's no mere coincidence that Trump made a grab for Greenland. ... Where nationalists are in power, short-term profit and geopolitical victories will take precedent over global interests. Merkel is preparing to leave the stage, Macron is under pressure, Trudeau likewise. Other supporters of a global conscience like London's mayor Sadiq Khan will perhaps never attain the power to impose their way. The fires in the Amazon could be decisive for the future in many ways.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Oxygen as a resource has its price

The rich countries should contribute most to measures for saving the rainforests, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung comments:

“We all need them. ... But that doesn't mean South America is solely responsible for their upkeep while the rest of the world breathes deeply and keeps its money to itself. ... The rich countries of the world must realise that they won't get anything for free. ... For thousands of years Brazil has been exporting an extremely valuable raw material all over the world: oxygen. Up to now free of charge. But why should it? If we can pay for gold and natural gas, then we should also pay for oxygen. Or we could produce our own, by reforesting the entire western world - a rather laborious and costly project, however.”

La Croix (FR) /

Time for a long-term solution

Those who want to save the rainforests must think far into the future, La Croix puts in:

“Only long-term processes which guarantee sustained financing will encourage the countries in the region to cooperate in finding a policy of conservation or sustainable forestry. At the same time, international law should evolve to define the global challenges which lie outside the purview of individual states. National interests have become too narrow to confront major developments. That's a good topic for the UN, which is holding a Climate Change Summit on September 23.”

The Observer (GB) /

Make free trade contingent on forest protection

Appeals won't be enough, writes The Observer, and calls for more pressure on Europe's part:

“It's all very well for European governments to condemn Bolsonaro, but western demand for Brazilian beef is contributing to deforestation. The EU imported more than £490m [just over 470 million euros] worth of beef from Brazil last year. Consumers in Britain were indirectly responsible for the destruction of the equivalent of 500 football pitches of rainforest in Brazil last year; Italy, four times as much. Under the terms of the Mercosur agreement, that will go up. The EU must use its power as Brazil's second biggest export market to insist that the agreement cannot go ahead unless Bolsonaro steps up enforcement action against illegal deforestation.”

Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

Brazil jeopardising the planet's green lung

For Tygodnik Powszczechny the Amazon Rain Forest deserves top political priority:

“The Brazilian president's stance on the biggest rainforest in the world isn't just a South American problem, it affects all seven and a half billion people living on the planet. The Amazon is the world's biggest forested area, it regulates the continent's rainfall and is a gigantic carbon sink. ... Our headlines here on the other side of the Atlantic shouldn't be filled with Donald Trump's most recent inanities (like his proposal to purchase Greenland), but with the Brazilian government and industry's silent war on Earth's lung. Curbing Bolsonaro's excesses is now the biggest challenge facing global diplomacy.”

Aftonbladet (SE) /

EU mollycoddling Bolsonaro

The last thing the EU should do now is to actually support Bolsonaro, Aftonbladet rails:

“What is Sweden's and Europe's attitude to Bolsonaro? EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has recently signed a new free trade agreement that fuels the motor of slash-and-burn agriculture - Brazil's meat industry. The EU Commission claims it has received guarantees that Brazil will comply with the Paris Climate Agreement. The idea of Jair Bolsonaro, nicknamed 'Captain Chainsaw', respecting the climate is very appealing. But at the same time the sky is darkening over São Paulo.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

The indignant should check their facts

As justified as all the indignation on the Internet is there's also something hypocritical about it, the Süddeutsche Zeitung comments:

“Above all the man who bears the responsibility for the fires deserves criticism. President Jair Bolsonaro has systematically undermined environmental protection in Brazil. Under his government big property owners and land speculators can do as they please. They can cut down rainforests and clear terrain with 'controlled' fires as much as they want. ... But the telling aspect is that all of this went on in the past too. In some years almost as much wood was cut down as today under Bolsonaro. In the days before Greta Thunberg and Fridays for Future, however, hardly anyone showed much interest. What's more, many of the images that are now being shared millions of times over the Internet are faked, or at least outdated. Those who are up on their high horses now should make sure their facts are correct.”