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Cleared area in the Amazon rainforest in Colombia

Photo: Juancho Torres / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

In view of the worsening climate crisis, the Amazon riparian states in South America intend to cooperate more closely in the future to protect the Amazon rainforest. For the first time in 14 years, the heads of state and government of the Amazon countries met in Brazil for a summit.

"It has never been more urgent than now to resume and expand this cooperation," said Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva at the beginning of the conference of the Organization of Cooperation in the Amazon (OTCA) in Belém. 60 percent of the Amazon forest is located on Brazilian territory. A fifth of the rainforest there has already been destroyed.

In addition to the host, Colombia's President Gustavo Petro, Peruvian President Dina Boluarte, Bolivian President Luis Arce and Guyana's Prime Minister Mark Phillips came to the Amazon metropolis. Ecuador and Suriname were represented by ministers. The aim of the meeting, which runs until Wednesday evening, is to reconcile environmental protection with sustainable economic development and job creation, Lula said.

However, Lula's vision of the region's economic development also harbors potential for conflict. Oil production in the Amazon region and near the mouth of the Amazon is particularly controversial. While the Brazilian president is quite open to the production of oil in the region, the Colombian head of state Petro is in favor of curbing the exploitation of fossil fuels.

Concrete measures are lacking

The Belém Declaration agreed, among other things, on the creation of an Amazon alliance to combat deforestation, a common air traffic control system against organised crime and better cooperation in the fields of science, finance and human rights. However, it is up to the countries to pursue their individual deforestation goals.

Critics complained about the lack of binding targets. "The summit addressed the right issues, but did not deliver what society, the private sector and academia expect: a set of concrete short- and medium-term measures that can change course," Marcelo Furtado of the Coalition for Climate, Forests and Agriculture told the G1 news portal.

The Amazon rainforest plays an important role in the international fight against climate change. It absorbs gigantic amounts of carbon from the CO₂ in the Earth's atmosphere and thus counteracts global warming caused by this greenhouse gas. Experts warn that the rainforest is approaching a tipping point, from which its trees would die and the stored carbon would be released back into the atmosphere as CO₂. This would have catastrophic consequences for the Earth's climate.

After deforestation and slash-and-burn agriculture had increased sharply during the term of office of right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2022), President Lula announced when he took office at the beginning of this year that he would once again strengthen environmental and climate protection in the Brazilian part of the forest.

Recently, the police in Brazil have carried out large-scale operations against loggers, farmers and illegal gold prospectors. In Belém, Lula reaffirmed his promise to completely stop deforestation of the rainforest in Brazil by 2030.