ROME — A group of regional leaders from the Amazon proposed Monday at the Vatican that rich nations be compelled to indemnify them for environmental damage caused in the so-called “lung of the planet.”
Gathered for the Vatican’s Pan-Amazonian Synod, Brazilian governors as well as regional governments of other Amazon countries held a special summit at the Pontifical Academy for Sciences Monday, in which they insisted that the Amazon is a natural carbon sink that releases oxygen for the whole world and they deserve compensation for it.
Governor Wellington Dias of the Brazilian state of Piauí proposed the creation of the Pan-American Permanent Forum for the Defense of the Amazon, which met with unanimous approval by the other governors and participants.
“Science points to a great risk of climate change on the planet and there is a need to address this issue more swiftly,” Mr. Dias said. “Brazil, as a country that captures carbon dioxide and emits oxygen, has an estimated $30 billion in receivables.”
The payments, Dias said, would go into a financial fund to address the damage caused to the environment by the “rich countries,” which with high levels of consumption are the most responsible for the emission of greenhouse gases on the planet.
“The world had, throughout its history, a development model focused on deforestation, on the destruction of nature,” Dias said. “Yet historically, Europe, and even here in the Vatican, was covered in forests.”
At the end of Monday’s summit, the regional leaders published a declaration, which they also sent to Pope Francis, outlining their proposal for the “sustainable development of the Amazon.”
“Rich countries must expand their financing commitments to recognize the value of Amazonian environmental services, which benefit all mankind, and are maintained by the Amazon,” the declaration states, while backing up the proposal by citing Pope Francis’s encyclical letter on the environment, Laudato Si.
“We require an urgent consensus for the regulation of art. 6 of the Paris [Climate] Agreement, in order to give financial compensation to the reduction of emissions, sequestration, and maintenance of the carbon stocks of the Amazon forests,” it states.
The Brazilian governors also underscored their opposition to the national populist government of Jair Bolsonaro, who has taken a more skeptical view of the so-called climate crisis. Bolsonaro has been accused of allowing an increase in illegal occupation of Amazonian lands and deforestation.
A representative of the Bolsonaro administration was at the Vatican for the summit and denied that there was an environmental crisis in the Amazon.
“There is no justification for talking about an environmental crisis in Brazil,” said Fábio Mendes Marzano, secretary of national sovereignty and citizenship affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in opposition to the assessment made at the synod.
As some observers have suggested, the 2019 Amazon synod involved “a group of participants carefully selected to produce a certain result.”
Attending Monday’s summit were 3 ministers and 30 governors of the Brazilian Amazon as well as from the Amazonian regions of Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname, along with representatives of the Catholic Church, and the American biologist Thomas Lovejoy.