Brazil’s Lula courted the UK and US to join the fund to protect the Amazon rainforest

BRASILIA, Nov 29 (Reuters) – Brazil’s President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is asking Britain, France, the United States and others to donate to an international fund to protect the Amazon rainforest, a bulwark against climate change, Lula’s advisers said on Tuesday .

Lula’s team has also approached Switzerland and Canada to contribute, aides said.

The Amazon Fund, started under the first leftist Lula administration from 2003-2010, has funded conservation projects and counts Norway and Germany as its biggest donors.

Right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro froze the fund, citing unspecified spending irregularities in projects supported by funds run by non-governmental organizations, without providing evidence. The fund already contains about 3 billion reais ($563.71 million) that have remained unspent for almost 4 years.

Halting deforestation in the Amazon, which absorbs large amounts of planet-warming greenhouse gases, is part of Lula’s broad plan for Brazil to regain leadership on climate action. Bolsonaro prioritized economic development over environmental protection and appointed climate skeptics as ministers.

Marina Silva, a former environment minister and adviser on Lula’s transition team, said the expansion of the Amazon Fund would give Lula the resources to take immediate action to protect the environment when he takes office on Jan. 1.

Lula will work with a budget for 2023 that was adopted by Bolsonaro and therefore contributing to the fund, “extending resources beyond what is already done by Norway and Germany, will be very useful to face this difficult moment on which we will have,” said Silva. .

She personally raised the issue with Britain, Canada, France, the United States and Switzerland while attending the COP27 UN climate summit in Egypt in early November.

The British Embassy said its government was considering an invitation to join the Amazon Fund.

Izabella Teixeira, Lula’s former environment minister and current climate change adviser, told Reuters she had met with Norwegian and German officials on Monday about restarting the fund.

Norwegian Environment Minister Espen Barth Eide told the UN gathering that he expected the fund to restart “very soon after January 1”.

Teixeira confirmed that Britain, France and Switzerland have expressed interest in the fund.

The former minister said she had lunch with the British ambassador to Brazil and the head of the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) about new cooperation, including the Amazon Fund.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is due to visit Brazil in the first half of 2023 to discuss possible cooperation before his country makes a final decision on joining the fund, she said.

The British Embassy said climate and environment ministers were approached by Brazilian senator Randolfe Rodrigues and Para state governor Helder Barbalho at the COP27 summit about donating the fund. Both officials accompanied Lula during his visit to COP27.

The US and Canadian embassies did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The French and Swiss embassies declined to comment.

Deforestation has risen to a 15-year high under Bolsonaro, who has called for more farming and mining in the Amazon region.

Lula has pledged to eliminate deforestation using all the tools at his disposal, including more money and officials to enforce environmental laws.

($1 = 5.3219 reais)

Reporting by Anthony Boadle and Jake Spring; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Jake Spring

Thomson Reuters

Global Climate & Environment Correspondent, based in Brazil. Interests include science, forests, geoengineering, cryosphere, climate policy/diplomacy, accountability and investigative reporting. His work on environmental destruction under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has received awards from Covering Climate Now and the Society of Environmental Journalists. Previous stage in China, fluent in Portuguese and Mandarin Chinese.

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