BIARRITZ, France — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is offering $15 million and the use of Canadian water bombers to help fight the wildfires currently ravaging the Amazon rainforest.
Speaking at the end of the G7 leaders’ summit, Trudeau says the country is also reaching out to the government of Brazil to see what else is needed to douse the flames, which he describes as a symptom of an escalating climate crisis.
Trudeau’s announcement came on the heels of a US$20-million commitment from the G7 to help Amazon countries fight the blazes, as well as to launch a long-term global initiative to protect the rainforest.
The world’s seven largest economies reached the deal after a session focused on climate change that U.S. President Donald Trump missed in order to hold one-on-one bilateral meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, among other leaders.
Trudeau says Trump has made his perspective on climate change very clear, while the Liberals believe climate change is a real and existential threat for the country and the planet.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera says the G7 effort will be aimed specifically at Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Paraguay.
“They need — and with urgency — brigades specialized in combating fires; specialized planes to fight those fires,” Pinera said.
“The second stage is more long-term and will require the consent of the countries involved,” he added, outlining not only a plan for reforestation of those parts of the basin ravaged by the flames, but also a plan to guard the biodiversity of the region.
“It would, of course, always respect their sovereignty,” he said. “We think we have to protect these real lungs of our world.”
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a populist, far-right leader, initially dismissed the hundreds of blazes and then questioned whether activist groups might have started the fires in an effort to damage the credibility of his government, which has called for looser environmental regulations in the world’s largest rainforest to spur development.
In response, European leaders threatened to block a major trade deal with Brazil that would benefit the very agricultural interests accused of driving deforestation.
Thousands of people have demonstrated in cities across Brazil and outside Brazilian embassies around the world. #PrayforAmazonia became a worldwide trending topic. Pope Francis added his voice to the chorus of concern, warning that the “lung of forest is vital for our planet.”
Bolsonaro finally took a less confrontational approach Friday and announced he would send 44,000 soldiers to help battle the blazes, which mostly seem to be charring land deforested, perhaps illegally, for farming and ranching rather than burning through stands of trees.
Trudeau began the day with a one-on-one meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, who is hosting this year’s summit.
The two discussed a number of topics, including Macron’s attempts to broker a deal to save the 2015 Tehran nuclear accord and ease growing tensions between Iran and the West.
France’s invitation to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif led to sidebar meetings with French, German and U.K. officials in Biarritz on Sunday — but also led to some tense discussions about Iran among the G7 leaders.
Macron had already indicated that he intended to make climate issues a prominent part of the agenda for discussion heading into the weekend summit, with a particular urgency placed on the situation playing out in the Amazon.
More than 40,000 Amazon fires
Calling the wildfires an “international crisis,” Macron called for an emergency debate. “I couldn’t agree more,” Trudeau tweeted, who is headed into an election campaign that’s expected to make his Liberal government’s climate plan a central point of debate.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke to her Brazilian counterpart Sunday and offered Canada’s support.
Satellites have recorded more than 41,000 fires in the Amazon region so far this year, with more than half of those coming this month alone.
Monday’s agreement was reached following a summit work session focused on climate, oceans and biodiversity — a session that Trump missed in order to attend one-on-one meetings with other leaders, including Merkel and Modi.
Macron says Trump’s team was in the room, and that the U.S. president agrees with the shared goal of the Brazil package.
With files from The Associated Press