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Amazon Rainforest Burns and Brazil’s Leaders Are Under Fire | WSJ


– The main thing that’s
causing fires is deforestation. Would you agree with that? – Deforestation is important
aspect of the fires, but it’s not the only one. – [Narrator] As fires continue to burn in Brazil’s rainforest, Ricardo Salles, Brazil’s environment minister,
says he’s in the U.S. to tell his government’s
side of the story. – It’s a communication challenge, I think. – According to France’s Emmanuel Macron, it’s an international crisis. Canada’s prime minister agrees, and Finland is urging EU countries to stop importing beef
and soybeans from Brazil. They point to Brazil’s
mismanagement of a rainforest they consider vital to all humanity, and the fires, more
than 43,000 from January through August of this year, according to Brazil’s
space agency, as exhibit A. Salles, a lawyer by training,
took office in January under conservative
president Jair Bolsonaro. In his first trip to the U.S. as minister of the environment, Salles confirmed the Brazilian president plans to address the United
Nations General Assembly. He says Bolsonaro wants to talk about the country’s
environmental policies. What’s the message he’s gonna be bringing? – Brazil is an example
of a sustainable country, as opposed to the
narrative that was created that they are dismantling
the environmental structure. – But why are the fires at
the highest level since 2010? – With this year’s you’ll see that it’s hotter, it’s drier. – The drought has been milder this year. – What happened is that the
distribution of the rain during the period this year
was much more concentrated than the past three years, – [Jason] Rainforest
fires typically burn land that has been either fully
or partially deforested. The rate of forest loss in Brazil’s Amazon started to decline around 2005. – In 2012 on, it became going up again. – [Jason] Salles says final
deforestation statistics for this year won’t be
released until November. But 70% more forest has
been cleared this year than the year prior. This is according to your
own government’s statistics. So it’s happening. – The important thing
is where is comes from. It comes from illegal
mining, it comes from the illegal use of the
forest for the wood removal, and also inappropriate agriculture use. – [Jason] Is the message
that you’re bringing that deforestation is
not as bad as it appears? – [Salles] We’re saying
that illegal deforestation must be fight against it. We already doing, actually. – [Jason] What constitutes
legal deforestation is a complex matter. Property owners in Brazil’s
Amazon are legally entitled to deforest some of their land. But according to Brazilian
environmental lawyers, wildcat miners, loggers and ranchers often bribe officials to
get phony land titles. Salles says legal land
owners should be paid to preserve the forest and
not cut and clear their land. – The fact is that, in order to avoid the increase of areas for
the use of agriculture, we need to provide to
the owners an alternative in terms of economic use of the property. And that’s why we’re
looking for the payment for environmental services, which is a rate that we
remunerate those owners. – That’s expensive. I mean, you’re going through
budget cuts right now. You’ve cut your budget
overall by about 25%. – It’s not necessarily
coming from the budget. It can come from
international governments, leagues that are asking
Brazil not to produce or not to increase the
areas of plantation. It’s a tool that can be used for … turn speeches into actions. – Salles says he’s announcing
a bio-economic summit which will take place in November. He says Brazil will invite representatives from international companies to discuss preservation of the Brazilian Amazon and economic development there. Boycotts from companies like H&M, how worried are you about
these effecting your economy? – First, I don’t think it’s fair, because Brazil is doing well. We have a legal framework which
is an example to the world, the forestry code, the
maintenance of the appropriate sustainable production and everything. – But these companies
clearly aren’t convinced. – We are here to show them
that they are not convinced based on misinformation. – Many people think your country has a major role to play in
preventing climate change, because you’ve got 60%
of the Amazon rainforest. This is the world’s
most bio-diverse forest. And they’re concerned that, if
it continues to be destroyed at the rate that it is right now, that that could make climate change worse. Does that concern you? I mean, does climate change
keep you up at night? – No, it’s an important issue. – [Jason] It’s on issue on the
minds of many world leaders, as Salles, as he says, tries
to reshape the narrative.

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