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Amazon nations form alliance to safeguard rainforest at landmark summit

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Eight nations from South America have come together to establish a collective alliance aimed at safeguarding the Amazon rainforest. The leaders of these countries gathered in Brazil for a pivotal summit, where they made a commitment to prevent the world’s largest rainforest from crossing a critical “point of no return.”

During the summit, the heads of state from South American nations also challenged developed countries to take more proactive measures in addressing the immense destruction facing the planet’s largest rainforest. They emphasized that the responsibility for addressing this crisis should not fall solely on a few countries, as the issue has been caused by a multitude of contributors.

The highly anticipated summit of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) concluded with the adoption of an ambitious agenda to rescue the rainforest. This agenda, described as “new and ambitious” by Brazil, the host country, aims to counter the devastating effects of climate change by preserving the rainforest, which plays a crucial role as a climate buffer.

The participating nations, including Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela, signed a comprehensive joint declaration in Belem, located at the mouth of the Amazon River. This declaration, spanning almost 10,000 words, outlines a detailed roadmap focused on promoting sustainable development, ending deforestation, and combatting the organized criminal activities that contribute to deforestation.

However, the summit attendees fell short of fully agreeing to the demands put forth by environmentalists and Indigenous groups. These demands included adopting Brazil’s commitment to halt illegal deforestation by 2030 and Colombia’s pledge to cease new oil exploration. Instead, individual countries will pursue their own goals related to deforestation reduction.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been working to enhance Brazil’s environmental reputation, had been advocating for a unified regional policy to halt deforestation by 2030.

Coinciding with the summit’s opening, the European Union’s climate observatory confirmed that July had set a new record as the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. Lula underscored the severity of the climate crisis in his opening speech, stressing the urgent need for collective action.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro urged a substantial rethinking of the global economy, proposing a strategy akin to a “Marshall Plan.” This strategy would involve cancelling developing countries’ debts in exchange for their commitment to protect the climate.

The absence of a binding agreement among the eight Amazon nations to safeguard their forests disappointed some observers. Marcio Astrini of the environmental advocacy group Climate Observatory expressed frustration at the lack of a clear commitment to achieving zero deforestation, particularly in the face of escalating climate concerns.

Beyond addressing deforestation, the official proclamation of the summit, known as the “Belem Declaration,” did not specify a deadline for ending illegal gold mining. Nonetheless, leaders did agree to collaborate on this issue and enhance efforts to combat cross-border environmental crimes.

Reporting from the summit in Belem, Al Jazeera’s Latin America editor Lucia Newman noted that while the final document contained numerous positive intentions, it lacked concrete deadlines. However, there appeared to be a heightened sense of urgency among the leaders of the eight Amazonian nations. With deforestation in the world’s largest rainforest already at 17 percent, scientists warn that the tipping point is dangerously near.

The Amazon rainforest, home to about 10 percent of the planet’s biodiversity, 50 million people, and countless trees, serves as a crucial carbon sink, playing a vital role in reducing global warming. Scientists caution that continued destruction of the rainforest could push it past a tipping point, causing trees to die off and release carbon, which would have catastrophic implications for the climate.

In a bid to exert pressure on the attending heads of state, hundreds of environmental activists and Indigenous demonstrators marched to the summit venue, advocating for bold and decisive action.

This summit marks the first gathering of the eight-nation group in 14 years. Established in 1995 by South American countries that share the Amazon basin, the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) is viewed as a prelude to the 2025 United Nations climate talks, which are scheduled to take place in Belem.

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