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Lula hosts South American summit to safeguard Amazon

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Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will lead a crucial regional summit next week, with leaders from Amazon-sharing countries gathering to strategize on saving the world’s largest rainforest. The eight-nation Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization will convene in Belem, capital of the Amazon state of Para, to address the pressing issue of climate change, with a focus on devising a roadmap to preserve the Amazon.

This summit marks the organization’s first gathering since 2009, underlining Lula’s commitment to bring Brazil back into the forefront of the climate change fight. Following a period of escalated destruction during his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro’s tenure, Lula is determined to revitalize the nation’s efforts to combat climate change.

The Amazon rainforest, renowned for its vital role in absorbing carbon, plays a significant part in mitigating global warming. However, scientists caution that deforestation has brought the forest perilously close to a “tipping point,” wherein the trees could die, releasing their stored carbon into the atmosphere and triggering catastrophic climate consequences.

Data from Brazil’s national space agency, INPE, indicates a staggering 117 percent increase in carbon emissions from the Amazon in 2020 compared to the average between 2010 and 2018.

President Lula, a veteran leftist who resumed office in January, expressed his commitment to collaborate with other Amazon basin nations, including Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela, in preserving the Amazon’s integrity while fostering sustainable development.

The summit’s discussions will encompass strategies to combat deforestation and organized crime, with a strong emphasis on sustainable development for the region, which is home to around 50 million people, including several Indigenous groups crucial for the forest’s protection.

At the summit’s conclusion, leaders are expected to issue an ambitious joint declaration outlining an agenda for future collaboration among countries.

Brazil, possessing approximately 60 percent of the Amazon, has set a target to eliminate illegal deforestation by 2030, urging other countries to follow suit. Deforestation is primarily driven by cattle ranching, exacerbated by corruption, land-grabbing, and organized crime involved in illicit activities like drug and arms trafficking, timber logging, and gold mining.

Despite the challenges, there are signs of progress as deforestation rates from January to July dropped by 42.5 percent compared to the same period last year.

Ahead of the summit, over 50 environmental groups have called on the region’s governments to adopt a comprehensive plan to halt the Amazon’s encroaching tipping point. This plan includes endorsing Brazil’s pledge to eliminate illegal deforestation by 2030, strengthening Indigenous rights, and implementing effective measures to combat environmental crimes.

President Lula emphasized that the responsibility of saving the Amazon extends beyond the region’s borders. He called on the international community to support preservation efforts, stating that investing in these endeavors is a cost-effective way to safeguard the rainforest.

The summit will see the participation of six presidents, while Ecuador and Suriname will be represented by cabinet ministers. Additionally, key contributors to Brazil’s Amazon Fund, Norway and Germany, have also been invited, along with France, which has a stake in the Amazon through French Guiana. Brazil extended invitations to tropical rainforest nations Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, highlighting the global nature of the challenge to protect the Amazon.

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