Brazil’s far-right populist president has encouraged the wanton destruction of the world’s greatest forest. He has been humbled but not stopped
As Donald Trump’s America retreats from global leadership, coalitions of like-minded nations are attempting to limit the damage. One such grouping at this weekend’s G7 summit in France managed a breakthrough over one of the globe’s most pressing problems: the accelerating deforestation in the Amazon. Conserving rainforests is necessary if there is to be any chance of limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It’s not just humanity at stake – the Amazon contains at least 10% of the Earth’s biodiversity. So it was good to see France’s Emmanuel Macron take Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro to task for encouraging the wanton destruction of the world’s biggest tropical forest.
The rules-based order worked though Trumpish pre-emptive tweets: “Our house is burning. Literally,” wrote Mr Macron last week; “It is an international crisis,” added Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister. Mr Bolsonaro attempted to brazen it out. However, his opposition melted away as the heat was turned up over 24 hours. Mr Macron, along with Ireland’s Leo Varadkar, threatened to veto a trade deal between the EU and Mercosur, the South American economic bloc in which Brazil is the biggest player. Both European nations’ trading interests aligned with concern for the Amazon, but the pressure worked. By Friday Mr Bolsonaro had ordered the armed forces to fight a worrying spate of forest fires. Even the White House offered to help with saving the rainforest.