US climate envoy Kerry stresses will for Amazon cooperation

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — U.S. climate envoy John Kerry concluded his second day of meetings with Brazilian government officials Tuesday, conveying his commitment to collaborate on preserving the world’s largest tropical rainforest — but without detailing specifics.

Kerry referred to the Amazon rainforest as test of humanity, and said that without its protection it is impossible possible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), as called for in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

“There are stakes in what is at risk with the Amazon that are hard for some people to grab on to, but the reality is that this forest is critical to the ability of the world to meet the targets we have set in international meetings,” Kerry told reporters Tuesday afternoon in capital Brasilia. He added that U.S. President Joe Biden “is deeply seized by this issue.”

A newly reactivated work group of the two nations will present its results on the Amazon, renewable energies and Indigenous peoples at the April summit of the Group of 20 major economies, Environment Minister Marina Silva said.

Kerry and Silva first met on Monday, alongside Vice President Geraldo Alckmin and the head of the country’s development bank, which administers the nation’s Amazon Fund. The fund is an international effort to preserve the rainforest, channeling donations to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation while promoting sustainability.

Speaking to reporters beside Kerry after their Tuesday meeting, Silva said the U.S. government still needs approval from Congress before it can earmark specific amounts for environmental funding.

“It isn’t just a signal from the American government, but rather a decision, which is more important. When President Biden says he will collaborate, he will,” she said. “Obviously the U.S. has such economic and strategic importance that its collaboration isn’t just of a financial nature, but also political.”

Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was in Washington earlier this month with his U.S. counterpart. A joint statement issued by both countries said that the U.S. intends to form part of the Amazon Fund, which is majority financed by Norway and also receives support from Germany. Kerry reiterated that pledge on Tuesday after meeting Silva a second time.

Kerry also met with Sônia Guajajara, the Indigenous Peoples Minister. She had just returned from the remote corner of the Amazon rainforest where British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were murdered last year, and where on Monday she announced the government was reinforcing its presence.

Kerry told reporters that he will return to Brazil next month and visit the Amazon. Silva said a precise destination hasn’t been determined — adding that, if he goes to Para state, he will be offered “a good cup of the best açai in the world.”

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