Brazilian Rejection of G7 Aid – More to It Than a Sulking President

Brazil has a direct message for the world: If you want to save the world by preserving the Amazon, pay for it.

With 2.3 million acres of Amazon forests already at risk from the fires raging across the region, Brazil’s refusal of aid pledged at the G7 summit is strange. We believe it signals a deeper issue in the climate battle.

Even as reports came in of Brazil refusing the $20 million in aid pledged at the G7 summit, it was easy to put it down to the barbs between that the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, has exchanged with Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian President.  In what has been a  distinctly  un-presidential behaviour, the Brazilian president has been guilty of comments that can only be termed ‘rude’ at best, comments that Macron felt compelled to respond to, further riling up Bolsonaro, a president who seems to thrive on resistance.

Just a week earlier, Norway and Germany had cut off air amounting to almost $72 million in retaliation for Brazil’s plans to shut down a steering committee tasked with identifying projects to fight deforestation. The response was a jibe from Bolsonaro at Norway’s own oil and whale hinting industries.

But behind the refusal lie more long term issues that the developed world needs to be alive too. And that issue is the matter of developing countries and their environment related targets. These targets, while considered essential to prevent the climate emergency that seems to be picking speed faster than ever, frequently fly in the face of opposition at home.

The resistance is the classic development versus conservation trade off, as the scale of these changes are simply too big to be offset with minor interventions. The message Bolsonaro is sending out; one that he has not been afraid to voice earlier too, is quite simply, if you want to save the amazon, pay for it. And pay well enough for Brazil to justify the ‘sacrifice’ to its people.

In the developing world, especially India, there is a clear perception that rather than seeing the ‘green’ move as an opportunity, it needs to be seen as a collective project. Organisations like the UN have lost their way, when it comes to mobilising global opinion and coordinated action. Thus, it is up to political groupings like the EU, ASEAN, SAARC  and others  to find ways to channel higher aid and support more efficiently to the countries at the forefront of this fight.

Asia, Africa, and South America, the three continents with the most to do, and possibly the least resources to do it with, face some serious challenges as managing green goals versus the need to meeting the bare minimum expectations of their populations.

India, with its ridiculously low per capita consumption of critical contributors, be it electricity, meat or even plastics, has built its whole case for an extended deadline on this. But the fact that the world has been content to extend the deadline, rather than pump in money, tells a story.That even saving planet earth comes right after saving money, and preserving lifestyles that, by most developing country standards, are outrageously unsustainable.

Jair Bolsonaro is clearly saying, when it comes to the Amazon, the world can’t just say it is important to have it, unless they put their money where their mouth is. And $20 million is not exactly the kind of money he is looking at. The real amounts that will keep the Amazon ‘safe’ from its host country will probably be exponentially higher.

In a world where the US happily spends over $200 billion on fighting expensive, inconclusive wars , while pushing back against tougher environmental contributions and action within its own shores, the answer to the greatest environmental crisis for humanity is still in the same old 3 words. Follow the money.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna Singh is the founder at IamRenew

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