WASHINGTON – During his presidential campaign, Joseph R. Biden Jr. said the United States should mobilize $ 20 billion to stop the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and impose “significant economic consequences” if deforestation continues.
The Conservative Populist President of Brazil, Jair M. Bolsonaro, replied in Portuguese: “OUR SOVEIGNITY IS NON-NEGOTIABLE.” he wrote on Twitter. Brazil’s new leadership “no longer accepts bribes, criminal demarcation, or unfounded threats.”
On Friday, a non-partisan coalition of seven former cabinet secretaries and climate change negotiators pushed President Biden forward.
“The Amazon rainforest is absolutely necessary for the world. It stabilizes the earth’s climate and rainfall, feeds tens of millions of people, and is home to more wildlife than anywhere else, ”said Bruce Babbitt, former Arizona governor and home secretary during the Clinton administration.
Mr Babbitt’s group, in a letter to Mr Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday, outlined an “Amazon Protection Plan” that focused on money, trade deals, financial regulations and corporate obligations. The aim was to add to Mr Biden’s election pledges and a US State Department policy on Wednesday to develop guidelines to protect the Amazon.
“Congress and the American people have a long history of helping conserve the Amazon rainforest. It’s something inspirational and tangible to leave behind, ”wrote the group that includes two former Environmental Protection Agency administrators who served under Republican administrations, Christine Todd Whitman and William K. Reilly; Todd D. Stern, President Barack Obama’s Special Envoy on Climate Change; Tim Wirth and Frank E. Loy, both serving as secretaries of state for global affairs in the Clinton administration; and Stuart E. Eizenstat, who chaired the US delegation to negotiate the 1997 Kyoto Protocol climate agreement.
The coalition is calling on Mr Biden to convene a White House summit to urge business leaders to fund at least a billion tons of greenhouse gas reductions in the Amazon by 2025. They also called on Mr. Biden to extend the “debt for nature” swaps and negotiate such agreements with governments in the Amazon.
At the heart of the proposal is avoiding deforestation at the heart of trade agreements and closing loopholes to deter forest crimes abroad.
Companies are already banned from importing wood from forests that have been illegally logged. However, this does not apply to beef, soy or other agricultural products that may be grown or grown on illegally deforested land.
“We are inadvertently creating a financial incentive for criminals to set the Amazon on fire and convert it into farmland,” said Nigel Purvis, former US climate negotiator and chief executive of Climate Advisers, a Washington political group.
A spokesman for John Kerry, Mr Biden’s international climate commissioner, said the office will include deforestation experts and protecting the Amazon will be “an important element of US climate diplomacy.”
In a letter to Mr Biden last week, after weeks of repeating unfounded allegations of electoral fraud by his close ally Donald J. Trump, Mr Bolsonaro expressed hope that the United States and Brazil could reach a trade deal.
Mr Babbitt said “sensible environmental provisions in trade agreements” could be the main way to curb deforestation.
Scientists have long said that any hope of preventing global temperatures from rising to catastrophic levels includes restoring the world’s degraded forests, particularly the Amazon.
Under Bolsonaro, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon reached a record high last year when about 4,280 square miles, an area slightly smaller than Connecticut, were destroyed, according to the Brazilian National Space Research Agency.
Thomas Shannon, who served as Ambassador to Brazil between 2010 and 2013, said pressure on Mr Bolsonaro alone would not work.
“Brazil is not bullied” Mr. Shannon said. President Biden’s challenge, he added, “is to create a diplomacy that will convince Brazil that there is a reason to get involved again in the world,” he said.