Latin America & Caribbean

US and Brazil agree to Amazon development

Brazilian foreign minister Ernesto Araujo and Mike Pompeo Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Brazil Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo (L) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met on Friday

The US and Brazil have agreed to promote private-sector development in the Amazon, during a meeting in Washington on Friday.

They also pledged a $100m (£80m) biodiversity conservation fund for the Amazon led by the private sector.

Brazil's foreign minister said opening the rainforest to economic development was the only way to protect it.

Ernesto Araujo also hit back at criticism of Brazil's handling of the forest fires.

He told reporters in Washington that claims the country is "not able to cope with the challenges" were false.

On Friday, Finland urged EU countries to consider stopping importing beef and soybeans from Brazil in order to put pressure on Brazil to tackle the fires.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro has faced criticism for failing to protect the region.

More than 80,000 fires have broken out in the Amazon rainforest so far this year.

Experts believe the majority of the fires across Brazil this year are caused by human activity such as farmers and loggers clearing land for crops or grazing.

Environmentalists will be sceptical

By Roger Harrabin, BBC Environment Analyst

Environmentalists will say this scheme is a ruse to open up the Amazon for mining, logging and farming.

When roads are driven into the forest it attracts more settlers, who clear land and hunt wildlife.

The land clearance - even on a quite small basis - leads to changed weather patterns, which harm the forest.

Environmentalists will argue the best way of saving the rainforest is to leave it in the hands of indigenous people.

Environmentalists say Mr Bolsonaro's policies have led to an increase in fires this year and that he has encouraged cattle farmers to clear large areas of the rainforest since his election last October.

Image copyright EPA

Mr Araujo said: "We want to be together in the endeavour to create development for the Amazon region which we are convinced is the only way to protect the forest.

"So we need new initiatives, new productive initiatives, that create jobs, that create revenue for people in the Amazon and that's where our partnership with the United States will be very important for us."

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Media caption"It's extremely upsetting... to see this kind of devastation" - the BBC's Will Grant flew over northern Rondonia state

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the biodiversity investment fund would support businesses in hard to reach areas of the Amazon.

He added: "The Brazilians and the American teams will follow through on our commitment that our presidents made in March. We're getting off the ground a 100 million dollar, 11-year Impact Investment Fund for Amazon biodiversity conservation and that project will be led by the private sector."

Last week seven South American countries agreed on measures to protect the Amazon river basin.

Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Suriname signed a pact, setting up a disaster response network and satellite monitoring.

At a summit in Colombia, they also agreed to work on reforestation.

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