This Tuesday, in its opening speech to the United Nations Assembly (UN), the Brazillian President Jair Bolsonaro said that the country is a “victim” of a “brutal” campaign of disinformation about the deforestation and the fires in the Amazon rainforest and the Pantanal wetlands.
He said that the country is emerging as the world’s largest food producer and that is why “there is so much interest in spreading misinformation” about the country’s environment. “We are open to the world in what we have to offer our best: our products from the field. We have never exported so much. The world increasingly depends on Brazil for food,” said Bolsonaro.
Last week, as LABS has shown, 230 institutions put forward a list of measures the government should immediately implement to curb deforestation rates.
The so-called Climate, Forest, and Agriculture Coalition unites entities as diverse as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Youth Climate Leaders, the World Resources Institute (WRI), alongside companies usually on the opposing side of the ring — for instance, meat giants JBS and Marfrig, food-processing firm Amaggi, and German fertilizers producer Bayer.
“The coalition is at the government’s disposal to provide information, help with coordinating efforts with multiple sectors, or any action that could speed up a solution to this grave scenario,” the group said in the open letter.
This movement comes as, once again, Brazil faces a major international image crisis due to increasing levels of deforestation. In the first 14 days of September, almost 20,500 fires were registered in the Amazon region — already more than in the whole month of September 2019 (19,925). Meanwhile, the number of fires in the Pantanal wetlands has reached record-shattering levels in 2020.
Bolsonaro’s speech was recorded and presented in the opening of the UN’s online meeting. Bolsonaro did not admit any lack of action by his government to protect the country’s biomes.
His government has said criticism of its environmental policies are just a cover for protectionism in Europe, where farmers see Brazil as a competitor and businesses have threatened to boycott Brazilian products.
Bolsonaro said his government is still committed to concluding a free trade agreement between the European Union and the South American trade bloc Mercosur.
He blamed the media for “politicizing” the pandemic and causing panic among Brazilians by telling them to stay home, leading to “social chaos” while his government “boldly” took emergency economic measures to avoid a deeper crisis.
Environmental activists protested against Bolsonaro outside the U.N. headquarters on Monday. They carried banners that read “Brazil in flames” and “No forest, No future” to call attention to the destruction of the rainforest that scientists see as vital to curbing climate change.
Bolsonaro said his government was open to adopting fifth generation telecom technology “from any partners that respect our sovereignty and cherish freedom and the protection of data.”
That could appear to rule out Huawei, as Brazil debates whether to follow the advice of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to avoid buying 5G equipment from the Chinese company due to security concerns.