On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that leaders of the G-7 nations pledged to fund the package, including the United States, despite the fact that President Donald Trump skipped the climate summit. The G-7 nations are France, Germany, Japan, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada and the U.S.
But the White House’s National Security Council said Wednesday that the U.S. did not commit to the package because of a lack of coordination with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the country’s far-right leader, who has a history of rolling back environmental protections in the face of climate change.
“The United States stands ready to assist Brazil in its efforts to combat these fires, and did not agree to a joint G7 initiative that failed to include consultations with President Bolsonaro,” spokesperson Garrett Marquis told HuffPost in a statement. “The most constructive way to assist is in coordination with the Government of Brazil.”
Marquis also said the U.S. has long history of working with the region regarding conservation and biodiversity, “including the $80 million Partnership for Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity.”
The NSC’s announcement came as Bolsonaro, whose leadership has been compared to Trump’s, rejected the G-7 offer amid a spat between the Brazilian president and Macron, who hosted the summit over the weekend.
Last week, Macron called Bolsonaro a liar over his promise in June to combat climate change, according to France24. Bolsonaro has accused Macron of sensationalizing the fires in the rainforest and wanting to colonize it. The Brazilian president also criticized Macron’s wife, then denied offending her when asked if he would apologize.
On Tuesday, Bolsonaro alleged France was questioning Brazil’s sovereignty by calling on him to halt deforestation and only agreed to speak about the Amazon aid package if Macron apologized for criticizing him, according to The Associated Press.
Trump expressed his support for Bolsonaro that same day, tweeting that the anti-environmentalist “is working very hard on the Amazon fires” and has “the full and complete support of the USA.” The U.S. president is also a fierce climate change denier and critic of the free press.
Bolsonaro’s own presidential campaign pointed to signs of rolling back environmental protections. The president campaigned on opening the Amazon to industry, which encouraged farmers and miners to participate in the Amazon’s deforestation. Bolsonaro has already cut the budget at Brazil’s leading environmental enforcement agency and shifted management of indigenous lands to the Ministry of Agriculture, which is dominated by agribusiness.
The Brazilian president criticized environmental nonprofit organizations before he moved on to blaming the international leaders who condemned him for putting the world’s largest forest in danger. Over the weekend, Bolsonaro deployed the military to fight the fires after the widespread criticism of his inaction.
The Amazon rainforest has been called the “lungs of the planet.” But fires have become much more widespread during this year’s dry season. Brazil’s space research agency reported last week that more than 72,000 fires had broken out across the Amazon since the beginning of the year. That is an 85% increase from 2017.