Dealing with jair bolsonaro: europeans would have to pay much more

Instead of criticizing, Europeans would have to offer Brazil’s president money. A lot of money. That’s the only way to prevent the destruction of the rainforest.

Fine words will fall flat. What counts is financial aid for Brazil Photo: reuters

Macron is a doer. Macron cares. Also and especially for matters of international urgency. For example, France’s president first single-handedly put the fire disaster in the South American rainforest on the agenda when it was denounced up and down social media. With a generous gesture, the G7 heads of government then announced on Monday after their meeting: 20 million euros in emergency aid for the burning Amazon. This is to involve technical and financial aid to fight the fires and repair the damage. The UK is contributing around half of this.

A bit little? Is that all these seven major economic powers have been able to scrape together? Just for comparison: 34 million is the not-so-impressive amount that Svenja Schulze recently had frozen in response to Bolsonaro’s clearances – and thus put projects on hold that were concerned with the preservation of biodiversity and educational campaigns.

Thus, the Europeans are not making it particularly difficult for Bolsonaro to reject the money with an offended gesture. According to the motto: Take care of your own forest dieback, you colonialists. That’s a very nice criticism coming from someone who behaves like a colonial ruler in the 19th century when it comes to the Brazilian natives. After all, his declared goal is to make even the protected areas of the indigenous people economically usable.

On Tuesday, Bolsonaro finally announced that he might accept the money after all, provided Macron apologized for his "insults. The two leaders had feuded on Twitter over the weekend, at one point discussing the attractiveness of Macron’s wife. One could get the impression that the notorious environmentalist Bolsonaro, but also his French colleague, are more concerned with their egos than with fighting a global catastrophe.

Compensating instead of criticizing

If the Europeans were really serious about protecting the rainforest, they would have to act more decisively. Then they would have to offer the Brazilian government money, despite all the antipathy, to compensate for the loss of earnings if the rainforest is not cleared. This would have to be accompanied by the promotion of more sustainable economic sectors.

To reaffirm that environmental protection really does take precedence over the pursuit of profit, the G7 countries must also introduce import bans on products for which rainforests are being cut down. And the EU countries would have to make environmental protection standards a condition for ratifying trade agreements such as the EU-Mercosur agreement.

All of this will be difficult to enforce, especially with a president like Bolsonaro, who does not seem to realize the importance of the rainforest. But first and foremost, there would have to be the political will to work together on meaningful global strategies and their financing.

But the hypocrisy of the world’s governments had already become apparent in smaller projects: In 2007, the then left-wing president of Ecuador, Raffael Correa, had called on the world with the YasunI-ITT initiative to donate money to make it worth his while to refrain from drilling for oil in the sensitive forest area. Despite verbal support from numerous governments, only $13.3 million of the requested $335 million had been collected by 2013. After that, oil production began in the middle of the indigenous protected area.

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