Dozens of high-profile American celebrities — including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Fonda, Alec Baldwin, Katy Perry, and Mark Ruffalo — signed a letter this week pressuring President Joe Biden not to engage in any negotiations on environmental issues with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro announced a campaign this week to attract international investment in the protection of the Amazon Rainforest, the world’s largest ecosystem of its kind. He announced Thursday, during remarks to Biden’s “Leaders Summit on Climate,” that his government would double the budget for inspections to ensure compliance with environmental laws and would expand investments in clean energy.
Bolsonaro’s administration said last week it was seeking at least $1 billion in compensation from the world for conservation efforts it has already made in the Amazon.
The conservative president’s new environmental policy push prompted outrage from Hollywood activists.
“We urge your Administration to … not commit to any agreements with Brazil at this time,” the celebrities wrote in an open letter to Biden. “We share your concerns that urgent action must be taken to address threats to the Amazon, our climate, and human rights, but a deal with Bolsonaro is not the solution.”
The letter claims “Brazilian lawmakers,” without naming any, have urged the U.S. government not to help their president conserve Brazil’s vast natural landscapes.
“We are concerned that your Administration may have been negotiating an agreement to protect the Amazon with Bolsonaro,” the letter continued. “While we are relieved that White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated recently that there would not be any bilateral agreement announced at the Leader’s Summit on Earth Day, we are still concerned that your Administration would negotiate any deal with Bolsonaro at this time.”
The letter concludes with a command to Biden to “reject any deal with Brazil until deforestation is reduced, human rights are respected, and meaningful participation by civil society is met.”
It did not specify any alleged “human rights” abuses by Bolsonaro or define “meaningful participation by civil society.”
The letter followed reports that Bolsonaro’s and Biden’s administrations have attempted to make headway of deals on environmental regulation, a sharp turn away from Biden’s stance on Brazil as a presidential candidate, when he threatened to destroy the nation’s economy.
“Brazil, the rainforests of Brazil are being torn down, are being ripped down. More carbon is absorbed in that rainforest than every bit of carbon that’s emitted in the United States,” Biden proclaimed at a presidential debate in September, during which the moderators asked no questions about foreign policy. “Instead of doing something about that, I would be gathering up and making sure we had the countries of the world coming up with $20 billion, and say, ‘Here’s $20 billion. Stop, stop tearing down the forest. And if you don’t, then you’re going to have significant economic consequences.’”
Biden never explained where the $20 billion figure came from or where that money would come from, other than “countries of the world.”
Bolsonaro responded by calling Biden a “coward” and hinting at declaring war on the United States.
Despite the deterioration in relations with Brazil, one of America’s oldest allies, under Biden, the Democrat’s administration invited Bolsonaro, and 39 other world leaders, to attend its “Leaders Summit on Climate” on Thursday. Bolsonaro used the opportunity to highlight his administration’s green bona fides and urge other nations to help Brazil financially for the heavy burden it has in protecting one of the world’s most lush green zones.
“Brazil has been an active voice in efforts to build a global environmental agenda. … Brazil is at the very forefront of efforts to tackle global warming,” Bolsonaro noted.
“As we get together to discuss climate change, we cannot possibly forget the major cause of the problem at hand and that is the burning of fossil fuels in the course of the past two centuries,” he continued. “Brazil has accounted for less than one percent of historic greenhouse gas emissions even as one of the world’s largest economies. Currently, Brazil accounts for less than three percent of annual global emissions.”
Bolsonaro also addressed concerns about the Amazon, noting Brazil was “proud of conserve [sic] 84 percent of the Brazilian Amazonian biome and 12 percent of the earth’s drinking water resources.” He announced an ambitious new goal of reaching carbon neutrality as a nation by 2050 and doubling federal government funds to inspect businesses and farms in the Amazon to ensure environmental compliance.
The president concluded with a plea for donations to his government, in spite of the celebrity campaign against them.
“There must be fair payment for environmental services provided by our biomes to the planet at large as a way o recognize the economic nature of environmental conservation activities,” he stated. “We stand ready and open to international cooperation.”
Last week, Ricardo Salles, Bolsonaro’s environmental minister, said the nation was hoping to attract a billion-dollar investment from Western governments in recognition of past work Brasilia had already done to protect the environment.
“We already have a lot of results that could justify the receiving of something, if not everything, but something upfront,” Salles told the Financial Times.