RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva met with his Colombian counterpart Gustavo Petro on Saturday to promote the upcoming regional summit on the Amazon rainforest and improve efforts to protect it.
The meeting took place in Leticia, Colombia, a town in the tri-border Amazon region between Colombia, Brazil and Peru, where organized crime has recently increased its control.
The meeting was aimed at laying the groundwork for the Amazon Summit that the Brazilian government is organizing in Belem next month. The leaders of the countries that are part of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, made up of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela, will attend this summit.
Lula is pushing for a joint summit declaration, to be presented at the United Nations climate conference, known as COP28, in Dubai in November.
“We will have to demand together that the rich countries fulfill their commitments,” Lula said in Leticia, sitting next to Petro.
Petro also stressed the need for a common front to put pressure on developed countries. “We believed that progress was the destruction of trees. … Today that is nothing other than the destruction of life,” he said.
The Colombian leader said that tackling the climate crisis will require spending trillions of dollars. This could be achieved by transforming the global debt system and “trading debt for climate action,” he said.
The final document will include measures for the sustainable development of the Amazon, the protection of the biome and the promotion of social inclusion, science, technology and innovation, valuing indigenous peoples and their knowledge, said the Brazilian presidential palace in a statement.
“The joint action of the countries that share the Amazon biome is essential to face the multiple challenges of the region,” the statement said.
One of the challenges it faces is the stricter control of organized crime, particularly in the tri-border regions, such as where Leticia is located. British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous activist Bruno Pereira were murdered in the neighboring Javari Valley region last year.
These areas have become “hotspots for violence,” according to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released in June. He pointed out that criminal groups are engaged simultaneously in the trafficking of cocaine production, as well as in the exploitation of natural resources.
Indigenous groups are “disproportionately affected” by the criminal nexus in the Amazon, the report added, noting forced displacement, mercury poisoning and other related health impacts, as well as increased exposure to violence.
In 2019, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Guyana and Suriname signed the Pact of Leticia to strengthen coordinated actions for the preservation of the natural resources of the Amazon.
But the goals are vague and lack ways of measuring progress, said Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, an umbrella organization for environmental groups.
“It is a letter of ambitions. We hope that in Leticia they (Lula and Petro) increase and clarify their ambitions”, said Astrini.
Since taking office in January, Lula has strived to put environmental protection and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples at the center of his third term. He successfully sought the resumption of international donations to the Amazon Fund that combats deforestation, launched a military campaign to expel illegal miners from Yanomami territory, pledged to end all illegal deforestation by 2030, and restarted the demarcation of indigenous areas. .
Lula’s approach is in stark contrast to the actions of his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro. Under the far-right leader, deforestation has soared to a 15-year high and environmental restrictions have been loosened. Deforestation fell 33.6% during the first six months of Lula’s term, according to satellite data the Brazilian government released this week from the National Institute for Space Research, a federal agency.
Petro has also spoken about the need to stop the destruction in the Amazon. The Colombian president has proposed the creation of a 20-year multilateral financing fund to support peasant communities that contribute to deforestation. The idea is to compensate them for conservation and regeneration activities.
Historically, there has been a lack of collaboration between Brazil and Colombia, which share a border of more than 1,500 kilometers (about 900 miles), according to Wagner Ribeiro, a geographer and environmental policy expert at the University of Sao Paulo.
“We hope that academic cooperation opportunities will arise from the meeting, which will later generate public policies that promote environmental conservation,” Ribeiro said.
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