Norway to resume Brazil aid halted over deforestation

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Norway said Monday it would resume sending Amazon protection subsidies to Brazil, which it had halted in 2019 under Jair Bolsonaro, following Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s election victory.

“We note that during the campaign he (Lula) emphasized the conservation of the Amazon forest and the protection of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon,” Norway’s Environment Minister Espen Barth Eide told AFP.

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“This is why we are eager to make contact with his teams, as quickly as possible, to prepare for a resumption of the historically good collaboration between Brazil and Norway.”

Norway was the biggest donor to the Amazon Fund for Forest Conservation and Climate Protection, considered one of the main tools to reduce deforestation in the planet’s biggest tropical forest.

But like the fund’s other main donor Germany, Norway halted its aid to Brazil in 2019 after far-right leader Bolsonaro took power.

Norway’s environment minister described a “head-on collision with Bolsonaro, whose approach was diametrically opposed when it came to deforestation.”

Under the far-right leader -- who has yet to concede defeat -- deforestation of the Amazon accelerated by 70 percent, a level Barth Eide described as “scandalous.”

Since the fund’s creation in 2008, the Scandinavian country has contributed $1.2 billion.

But according to figures provided by the Norwegian government, $641 million of unused aid was still waiting to be disbursed in the fund.

“It’s money that can be disbursed quickly and that is available to finance concrete projects, but there has to be a government on the other end,” Barth Eide said.

A vast haven of biodiversity and long a valuable “carbon sink,” the Amazon now emits more CO2 than it absorbs.

Reducing deforestation is one of the solutions put forward by the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, in line with the targets of the Paris Accord.

Lula -- who served as president between 2003 and 2011 -- said after his election victory on Sunday that Brazil was “ready to reclaim its place in the fight against the climate crisis, especially the Amazon.”

He vowed to “fight for zero deforestation.”

Elle Hestnes Ribeiro, of the Brazil program of Rainforest Foundation Norway, told AFP that they believe Lula has “very good intentions for the Amazon rainforest.”

“But he faces a political situation in Brazil that will make his work challenging,” she said.

“He will therefore be dependent on international aid, and the Amazon Fund is essential for this,” she said.

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