Brazil's Lula courts U.K., others to join fund to protect rainforest

November 30, 2022 01:46 AM AEDT | By Reuters
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By Anthony Boadle and Jake Spring

BRASILIA, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Aides to Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva are in talks with Britain, Switzerland and France, seeking donations for an international fund to protect the Amazon rainforest, a bulwark against climate change, a Lula adviser said.

The British embassy said its government was studying the invitation to join the Amazon Fund, which already has about 3 billion reais ($563.71 million).

The fund, which was launched under Lula's first administration from 2003-2010, bankrolled conservation projects and counts Norway and Germany as its biggest donors.

Right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro froze the fund, citing unspecified spending irregularities among fund-backed projects run by nongovernmental organizations, without providing evidence.

Protecting the Amazon, which absorbs vast amounts of planet-warming greenhouse gas, is part of Lula's sweeping plan for Brazil to reclaim leadership in the fight against climate change.

Izabella Teixeira, Lula's former environment minister and current climate change adviser, told Reuters she had met with Norwegian and German officials on Monday about restarting the fund.

Norway's Environment Minster Espen Barth Eide said at a United Nations climate summit in Egypt this month that he expects the fund to restart "very soon after the 1st of January," when Lula assumes office.

Teixeira confirmed that Britain, France and Switzerland had expressed interest in the fund, which was first reported by Brazilian newspaper Folha de S.Paulo.

The former minister said she had lunch with the British ambassador to Brazil and the head of the U.K. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) about new bilateral cooperation, including on the Amazon Fund.

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to visit Brazil in the first half of 2023 to discuss potential cooperation before his country makes a final decision on joining the fund, she said.

"There's much to discuss," Teixeira said.

The British embassy said its climate and environment ministers had been approached by Brazilian Senator Randolfe Rodrigues and Para state governor Helder Barbalho at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt about donating to the fund.

The Swiss and French embassies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Deforestation soared to a 15-year high under Bolsonaro, who rolled back environmental protections and called for more farming and mining in the Amazon region.

Lula has pledged to eliminate deforestation by using every tool at his disposal, pledging more money and officials for enforcing environmental laws. ($1 = 5.3219 reais) (Reporting by Anthony Boadle and Jake Spring; editing by Jonathan Oatis)


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