French President Emmanuel Macron pushed the panic button Thursday as he called for the fires in the Amazon rainforest to be placed on the agenda when the G7 meets this weekend in Biarritz, France. He doesn’t just want the environmental concern on the agenda – he wants the fires burning in the Amazon to be the first topic of discussion.
Macron calls the fires an “international crisis”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel quickly jumped on Macron’s bandwagon and agreed. She, too, wants the Amazon rainforest fires to be at the top of the list of items to be discussed. She one-upped Macron’s description by calling the fires an “acute emergency”. Macron led with a tweet, as happens these days, and the wording is a little awkward but his message comes across.
Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days! #ActForTheAmazon pic.twitter.com/dogOJj9big
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 22, 2019
The Amazon rainforest produces about 20% of the world’s oxygen. Some call it “the planet’s lungs”, which is why Macron used that term in his tweet.
On August 11, 2019, I wrote about Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro’s suggestions to counter the latest environmental challenges of the rainforest. His opponents point a finger at President Bolsonaro’s support of agricultural development in Brazil as the main culprit. In order to make room for cattle pastures, trees are cut down in the rainforest. A recent study from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) pointed to an increase in clearcutting (40%) in the rainforest as a reason for an increase to the damage done to the Amazon. Bolsonaro came under fire from environmental activists who blame his policies. After the study was published and released, Bolsonaro fired the head of INPE.
Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to meddle into Brazil’s management of the Amazon rainforest isn’t going over well with President Bolsonaro, as you might imagine. Bolsonaro also has a Twitter account and responded to Macron. He even accused Macron of using fake photos to make his case. Fake photos are the new fake news. And, oh yeah, there’s that smell of “misplaced colonialization” in the air.
I regret that President Macron seeks to instrumentalize an internal issue of Brazil and other Amazonian countries for personal political gains. The sensationalist tone with which he refers to the Amazon (appealing even to fake photos) does nothing to solve the problem.
The Brazilian Government remains open to dialogue, based on objective data and mutual respect. The French president’s suggestion that Amazonian issues be discussed at the G7 without the participation of the countries of the region evokes a misplaced colonialist mindset in the 21st century.
Bolsonaro is right, of course. Brazil is not a part of the G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US. Bolsonaro won’t be in attendance to speak for his country. It smacks of overreach for Macron to take it upon himself to call for management of the Amazon rainforest to be placed on the summit’s agenda. It also smacks of naked political opportunism. Macron is trying to use a hot button issue like climate change to bolster his comeback in popularity in France. He is enjoying a rise in popularity after his approval rating tanked earlier this year over his handling of the Yellow Jacket protests and riots.
It is nothing new for Angela Merkel to do the bidding of the climate change activists. She, too, uses the subject to appease voters and increase her favorability among them. She’s in agreement with Macron – put it on the agenda.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the “acute emergency” belonged on the agenda, agreeing with French President Emmanuel Macron’s earlier rallying cry.
Mrs Merkel described the fires as “shocking and threatening” and said she was convinced the issue should be on the G7’s agenda, her spokesman said.
Brazil and its neighbors are working to get the fires under control. Perhaps its European betters should just take a breath (lung pun intended).
Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno, on Thursday said he had spoken to Bolsonaro and would send three “brigades of specialists in forest fires and environmental research, who will help mitigate the tragedy in the Amazon rainforest”.
I’ll end with this little nugget from Twitter on the topic:
The Fires Are Raging and The Amazonia continues to burn………This is a devastation to Brazil—to the indigenous people who live there and the-plant and animal species that make this the most important bio-diverse Forest!!! President Bolsonaro please… https://t.co/YbxldYw8HY pic.twitter.com/lex4UIwHcg
— Madonna (@Madonna) August 22, 2019
Thanks, Emmanuel Macron. Maybe a nice bottle of Bordeaux and a serving of brie are in order to take the edge off.
Just in as I finished this post: Macron is now threatening to block an EU trade deal with Brazil and its neighbors over the handling of the rainforest fires.
“The president can only conclude President Bolsonaro lied to him at the Osaka summit,” a spokesperson for the Elysee told the Reuters news agency.
“In these conditions, France will oppose the Mercosur deal as it is.”
The EU-Mercosur trade deal reached agreement in principle earlier this year after 20 years of negotiation. Mercosur is a trade bloc that includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, with Venezuela also a member but suspended since 2016.
If the deal is ratified it would be the largest trade deal struck by both the EU and Mercosur in terms of population.
Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister, is in agreement. France and Ireland will need other member states to form a blocking minority to veto the deal. The question is, will sensationalism work to convince others to go along?