Amazon Summit

Image: Sergio Souza


The Amazon Summit produced generic declarations without concrete commitments. The voice of science was virtually ignored

As always happens in the final declarations of international meetings on climate and environment, the Declaration of Belém, product of the recently held Amazon Summit, recognized the urgency of saving the forest and respecting its peoples, but did not present a concrete plan. Countries of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization avoided concrete goals in the declaration of the Amazon Summit.

After many years of silence, the governments of Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela recognized the urgency of working together to protect the Amazon, without setting, however, joint goals or deadlines to end deforestation.

“It is a first step, but there is no concrete decision, it is a list of promises that do not address any real response to the world we are living in. The planet is melting”, comments Márcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, which brings together 90 Brazilian civil society organizations.

The highlight of the Amazon Summit was the president of Colombia. "Let's talk about the dissent, because the consensus is already written". Gustavo Petro harshly criticized the exploitation of fossil fuels. “There is a huge ethical conflict, above all by progressive forces, which should be on the side of science,” he said, referring to the scientific consensus on the climate crisis. President Gustavo Petro's message was interpreted as a hint to President Lula, who supports plans to extract oil from the ocean, near Foz do Amazonas. “What are we doing besides speeches? The forest, which could save us from CO2, ends up producing CO2 when we explore for oil and gas in it”, highlighted Gustavo Petro in his speech.

On the other hand, former ambassador Rubens Ricupero stated, in an interview with Deutsche Welle, that the position of the current government is not surprising: “Despite being very eloquent, Lula has many contradictions. The very question of oil in Foz do Amazonas, the construction of the Ferrogrão railroad, the paving of the roads that cut through the forest. There is still a great distance between discourse and reality”, he assesses.

Indeed, President Lula's vision of the Amazon is more social and economic than exactly ecological. But its commitment to zero deforestation by 2030 is an important factor in ensuring continued CO absorption.2 through the forest and also the emission of the so-called “flying rivers”, the current of humidity that ensures the rainfall regime in the Southeast, without which the Brazilian Southeast would be a desert, like the Atacama Desert, in Chile, which is located in the same region. latitude.

Everything indicates, however, that the honeymoon with the Lula government ended after six months. Social movements are beginning to articulate to advance their claims. After all, serious problems begin to arise. For example, the release of pesticides in the Lula government follows the pace of Jair Bolsonaro's management. Until mid-July, the Ministry of Agriculture of the Lula government approved the registration of 231 pesticides. The pace of releases in this period is equal to that of the first year of Jair Bolsonaro's term and exceeds the annual sum of any PT mandate (Folha de S. Paul, 4/8/2023).

With regard to the Amazon, the agenda, in a quick summary, prioritizes the standing forest, sustainable development and respect for the life and safety of workers who live in the forest and face the greed of economic enterprises on the agricultural frontier, such as the agribusiness, extensive livestock, mining and logging, mainly. In the Amazon – and beyond – the situation is extremely serious, approaching the point of no return, which means the possibility of forest destruction, despite the reduction in deforestation in the Amazon in the first half of 2023.

In interview with Real Amazon, on 1/8/2023, scientist Philip Fearnside highlights several studies predicting that the Amazon and Brazil, by the end of the century, will experience unprecedented droughts and will have a temperature four degrees above the current average. Despite the drop in deforestation in the Amazon by up to 33,6% in the first six months of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022, fires already exceed those of the previous year. This year, Mato Grosso is the most affected state from January to July, with a 20% increase in outbreaks compared to 2022. In addition to the significant increase, Mato Grosso also concentrates almost half of all heat outbreaks in the Legal Amazon, with 43,8% of all fires.

It is also necessary to take into account the existence of other aggravating factors. This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an official agency of the United States, registered the highest ocean surface temperature in 41 years. In April, the ocean temperature reached 21,1 degrees, the highest since 1982. In July, the temperature rose again and hit 21 degrees again. NOAA records illustrate that since 2016 ocean warming has risen considerably, with peaks in recent years.

Warming of surface water in the Pacific Ocean causes the phenomenon El Niño that affects air currents, changing the climate in different parts of the world. In southern Brazil, for example, the result is floods rather than droughts. although the El Niño Although it is a natural phenomenon that has occurred for thousands of years, scientist Philip Fearnside clarifies that this phenomenon is increasing in frequency due to the greenhouse effect caused by human emissions.

Second work of the magazine Nature Sustainability by 2023, the combination of extreme events and other sources of stress, such as temperature and deforestation, would shorten the time for the Amazon rainforest to irreversibly collapse by 61,3%, endangering the forest and human lives. Unfortunately, there are great possibilities for Brazil to promote projects that imply large emissions from deforestation, such as the BR-319 highway and associated roads, in addition to the risks with the proposed exploration of gas and oil at the mouth of the Amazon River.

In an interview with the magazine Unisinos Humanitas Institute, Philip Fearnside, researcher at INPA, points out that deforestation, unrestrained exploitation and fires, in addition to the effects of the climate crisis, lead the Amazon biome to lose resilience, as is already the case in some regions, which have reached the “point of no return”. According to him, “in heavily deforested areas in the south of Pará and north of Mato Grosso, or 'point of no return' may have already been overtaken.”

Philip Fearnside warns that the legal deforestation would not only continue but also increase substantially, as Lula also promises the “regularization” of land claims. “Regularization”, he adds, is a euphemism for legalizing illegal land claims and carries the connotation that claimants actually have legitimate rights to the land they claim. Once the ownership of these areas was legalized, past and future deforestation would be legalized.

Of course, legalizing these areas also fuels future land claims and encroachments, as the availability of “free land” is a strong motivator, and the continuing cycle of “amnesties” pardoning land encroachments and environmental crimes in the past has no end until let the last tree be cut down. In addition to deforestation, there are other threats. Forest fires are favored by climate change and logging and by the first “sparks” provided by the burning of cattle pastures in areas that have already been deforested.

Philip Fearnside highlighted sensitive areas that must be protected, such as the Trans Purus, in the state of Amazonas. The loss of forest in this region would be catastrophic for Brazil, as this area is critical for recycling water that is transported to São Paulo and other parts of southeastern Brazil by winds known as “flying rivers”. And this area is threatened by the licensing of BR 319. Before ending his interview, he criticized hydroelectric dams, which contribute to global warming by emitting both carbon dioxide and methane, and recalled the need to eliminate oil and gas globally to contain climate change.

In an interview with the press, scientist Carlos Nobre warns us that “when global warming and deforestation are combined, we are on the edge of the precipice of the tipping points, the point of no return”. According to him, “the entire southern Amazon, from the Atlantic to Bolivia, an area of ​​more than two million km2, is at the imminent point of no return. So we need to bring deforestation, degradation and fire to zero.” And remember that agriculture and selective logging use a lot of fire (The Globe, 7/8/2023).

The situation is extremely serious. The Amazon Summit produced generic declarations without concrete commitments. The voice of science was virtually ignored. The next UN international climate meetings – the so-called COPs – will be COP 28, to be held this year in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, committed to oil, and COP 29, to be held in 2024 in Australia, committed to with the production and export of coal.

The great hope is the COP 30, to be held in 2025 in Brazil, in the city of Belém. It will be a historic opportunity to effect a paradigm shift, a euphemism to say change in the capitalist mode of production and consumption that prioritizes profit to the detriment of sustainability. It remains to be seen whether we can wait until then. In a word, scientists.

*Liszt scallop is a retired professor of sociology at PUC-Rio. He was a deputy (PT-RJ) and coordinator of the Global Forum of the Rio 92 Conference. Author, among other books, of Democracy reactsGaramond).

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