Amazon rainforest nations gather to forge shared policy in Brazil

BELEM, Brazil (Reuters) – Leaders from the eight Amazon rainforest countries are gathering on Tuesday for the first time in 14 years, with plans to reach a broad agreement on issues from fighting deforestation to financing sustainable development.

The summit of Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) members in the Brazilian city of Belem could agree to a regional pact to stop deforestation by 2030, end illegal gold mining, and cooperate on cross-border policing of environmental crime. Leaders are expected to announce the final agreement, known as the Belem Declaration, late on Tuesday afternoon.

Presidents from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Peru are in attendance, while Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela sent other top officials. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, previously expected to attend, on Monday announced that he was cancelling his public agenda on medical advice because of an ear infection.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pledged on the campaign trail last year to convene the summit, as part of his bid to restore Brazil’s environmental leadership after deforestation soared under his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.

“We will discuss and promote a new vision of sustainable, inclusive development in the region,” Lula said in a speech opening the summit.

“We will strengthen the place of countries possessing tropical forests in the global agenda on issues from confronting climate change to the reform of the international financial system.”

A Brazilian government source, who was not authorized to speak to the media, said the Belem Declaration will likely include financing mechanisms for sustainable development, provisions for including Indigenous leaders in policymaking, and shared strategies for tackling deforestation.

Whether an agreement can be reached on ending deforestation by 2030 will likely hinge on Bolivia, where destruction has soared recently due to fire and rapidly expanding farming.

The agreement is also likely to outline channels for sharing technology and for municipal governments to exchange best practices, the source said.

ACTO Executive Director Carlos Lazary said the final agreement may include Brazil’s plans for a regional center in Manaus where Amazon countries can coordinate police operations.

The final agreement is likely to protest what the region sees as unfair trade barriers implemented in the name of environmental protection, CNN Brasil reported, citing a leaked draft of the declaration.

The European Union recently passed a law prohibiting companies from importing beef, soy, cocoa and other products linked to deforestation.

On Wednesday, Amazon countries will meet with leaders of the Congo, the DRC and Indonesia, looking to issue a joint statement from the world’s three major rainforest basins.

Norway and Germany, which have funded Amazon preservation, and France, which controls the Amazon territory of French Guiana, will also participate. (This story has been corrected to specify that the Guyana president was not in attendance, in paragraph 3)

Reporting by Jake Spring; Editing by Brad Haynes, Rosalba O’Brien, Jason Neely, Peter Graff

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