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RC bishops: ‘If the Amazon suffers, the world suffers’

30 August 2019


A fire consumes trees in Manicore, in the state of Amazonas, Brazil, on Monday

A fire consumes trees in Manicore, in the state of Amazonas, Brazil, on Monday

CHRISTIAN AID has welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement at the G7 summit of a £10-million boost in funding to tackle deforestation in the Amazon, and a doubling of the UK’s contribution to the Green Climate Fund to £1.44 billion over the next four years.

The charity warned world leaders, however, that “the time is now to stop talking and start taking the urgent action needed to save our planet.” It urged politicians to protect the one million indigenous people who are most vulnerable to the wildfires which are ravaging the region. “We must focus on aid and initiatives that support both and stand in solidarity with communities fighting exploitative companies and leaders,” it said in a statement this week.

The UK hopes to host the COP26 climate-change conference in 2020. Speaking at the G7 conference last weekend in Biarritz, Mr Johnson said that, if the UK’s bid was successful, the event “will have as a major focus the solutions to climate change that can be found in nature — such as reforestation”.

He continued: “The current global biodiversity targets have failed to stop the catastrophic decline in species. As the world’s largest economies, we owe it to all nations and to future generations to do better.”

Environmental campaigners have questioned Mr Johnson’s commitment, however, after reports that the Government is planning to cut fuel duty. Friends of the Earth’s climate campaigner, Aaron Kiely, said: “It doesn’t add up for the Government to commit to global biodiversity, and pay the usual lip-service to the climate emergency, while cutting fuel duty at home. Nothing short of radical changes are needed right now, and getting off our oil addiction is long overdue.”

reutersFire burns a tract of Amazon jungle, which had been cleared by loggers and farmers, behind a church near Porto Velho, Brazil, on Tuesday

The Shadow International Trade Secretary, Barry Gardiner, said: “The truth is that £10 million is an embarrassingly tiny contribution to deal with the situation in the Amazon, which is part of the sustained anti-environment campaign being waged by a right-wing Brazilian government. Boris Johnson’s government has pointedly refused to ensure that UK companies are not aiding and abetting the destruction of the Amazon by ruling out from any trade deal, beef raised on rainforest land burnt out by ranchers.”

On Sunday, Pope Francis noted the universal concern for the “vast fires” in the Amazon region. He said that he prayed that, “with the commitment of all”, they might be contained as soon as possible. He has called a special synod at the Vatican in October for Roman Catholic bishops from nine South American countries to discuss the crisis.

The RC bishops have already called on the governments of Amazon countries, the United Nations, and the international community to help “save the lungs of the world”. Quoting from a homily by the Pope, they urged those in positions of responsibility to be “custodians of creation, of God’s design inscribed in nature, guardians of the other, of the environment”, because, they said, “if the Amazon suffers, the world suffers.”

They will also receive a declaration, “Somos las Amazonas” (We are the Amazons), signed by 79 faith-based organisations, including Christian Aid, which calls for protection of the rainforest and the human-rights defenders in the region.

One Brazilian official, who is helping to prepare for the synod, described the burning Amazon as an “apocalyptic, Dante-esque, dreadful phenomenon”. Fr Roberto Malvezzi, an assessor with the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, said: “The problem concerns the whole of humanity; the entire community of life that inhabits planet Earth should be worried.”

Last Saturday, the Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, in an apparent effort to mitigate global concern, announced the deployment of 44,000 troops to tackle some of the 77,000 wildfires reported across the Amazon region this year: an increase of 85 per cent over 2018. On Tuesday, however, he rejected an offer from the G7 of £18 million to fight the fires, suggesting that it was a covert attempt to gain access to his country’s natural resources.

A meeting of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, on Monday, called on Churches in Brazil to work together to address the culture of violence and environmental concerns in their country. The Council’s general secretary, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, described the fires as “a national and international crisis”.

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