“It is not sensible to expect any solutions for the Amazon to stem from closed-door meetings with its worst enemy,” reads the letter, which is addressed to the US government. “Any project to help Brazil must be built from dialogue with civil society, subnational governments, academia and, above all, with the local communities that know how to protect the forest and the goods and services it harbors.”
“No talks should move forward until Brazil has slashed deforestation rates to the level required by the national climate change law and until the string of bill proposals sent to Congress containing environmental setbacks is withdrawn,” the letter also said.
Brazil’s Foreign Ministry told CNN in a statement that the US and Brazil are “studying the possibility of deepening bilateral cooperation” on the environment and deforestation and that discussions are “strictly intergovernmental.” The Brazilian Environment Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Deforestation in the Amazon
Things have changed since Biden became president. “Negotiating teams of the two countries have come together to deepen understandings about the needs and opportunities to enhance the Amazon biome and combat illegal deforestation, among other topics,” the Brazilian Foreign Ministry told CNN.
“The dialogues have progressed consistently in areas of Brazilian interest, such as financing and technical collaboration oriented towards actions to combat deforestation in the Amazon region,” it added.
The US sees the country as a vital partner to mitigating climate change and reducing global emissions, the State Department spokesperson said, and “supporting and encouraging Brazil’s actions to reduce deforestation and lock in a pathway to a strong net zero-emissions future” is a “key focus” for the Biden administration.
Doing so will require “solutions that include local community engagement, including indigenous and traditional communities, as well as new technologies and approaches to providing incentives,” the spokesperson also said.
But some environmental advocates in Brazil are wary. According to Marcio Astrini, head of the environmental network Climate Observatory, which signed the protest letter, they’ve been left in the dark about what the US and Brazil are contemplating. “We are really concerned about what’s being negotiated now, and what are the bases of the agreement?” Astrini said.
The US has not said if it would offer funds to Brazil for climate cooperation. Neither the State Department nor the White House responded to requests for comment about Salles’ remarks.
Reporting contributed by CNN’s Flora Charner, Shasta Darlington, and Ivana Kottasova.