Germany promises millions to help Brazil protect the Amazon rainforest Environmental news

German minister says new Brazilian government offers ‘great opportunity’ to protect rainforest after widespread destruction.

Germany has pledged tens of millions of dollars to help Brazil defend the Amazon rainforest, a critical global ecosystem that has seen years of destruction under former far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

During a press conference in Brasilia on Monday, German Development Minister Svenja Schulze announced that Berlin would make $38 million available for the Amazon Fund, an international mechanism funded mostly by Norway and aimed at preventing deforestation.

In 2019, Bolsonaro – who has promoted greater economic development in the Amazon and loosened environmental protections – dissolved the steering committee that selects sustainable projects for funding, prompting Germany and Norway to freeze their donations.

“With the new government and team [Brazil’s] President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and [environment] Minister Marina Silva, we have a great opportunity to protect the forest and offer a new perspective to the people who live there,” said Schulze.

Germany also pledged to provide $87 million in low-interest loans for farmers to rebuild degraded areas and $34 million for Brazilian states in the Amazon region to protect the rainforest.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva waves as he meets with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Brasilia
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (right) meets with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia on January 30, [Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters]

“Despite all the difficulties, increased deforestation, land grabbing, fires, the plight of the indigenous population, we see this as an opportunity to turn this whole situation around,” Lula also said during the press conference.

The announcement came shortly before German Chancellor Olaf Scholz landed in Brazil on Monday afternoon, becoming the first Western leader to meet Lula since the Brazilian president was inaugurated earlier this month.

The leftist leader, who narrowly defeated Bolsonaro in an October runoff, has vowed to fight for “zero deforestation” in the Amazon, roughly two-thirds of which lies in Brazil.

The rainforest is key to the global fight against climate change, and rights groups have condemned the Bolsonaro administration’s policies as leading to increased destruction, as well as growing threats to the region’s indigenous communities.

Deforestation in Brazil’s rainforest rose 150 percent in December from a year earlier, according to government data, with 218.4 square kilometers (84.3 square miles) of forest cover destroyed.

After Lula’s election victory, Greenpeace Brazil called on the new Brazilian government to rebuild the government’s environmental agencies – a measure it called “urgent”.

Human Rights Watch also appealed to Lula to put human rights at the center of her policies and strengthen “law enforcement to combat the destruction of the Amazon and threats and attacks against forest defenders.”

Lula said on Monday that the money from the Amazon fund would be used in emergencies, including the health crisis of the indigenous population in northern Brazil, where the Yanomami people are suffering from malnutrition and diseases brought to their region by the illegal gold mining industry.

“I have no doubt that there was a genocidal attitude towards indigenous communities,” he said, blaming the Bolsonaro administration for neglect. Last week, Lula declared a medical emergency in Yanomami territory, the country’s largest indigenous reserve.

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