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At Earth Day Summit, Bolsonaro Says U.S. Should Pony Up A Billion To Save The Amazon

Andre Penner
A swath of the Amazon rainforest lies smoldering after being burned for a cattle ranch last year near Novo Progreso, Brazil.

After trading jabs with Biden about the Amazon, Brazil's leader now wants $1 billion to reduce deforestation. Many Brazilians warn Biden not to trust the deal.

President Biden and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on protecting the Amazon rainforest — but during Biden’s Earth Day Summit the two leaders might find common ground thanks to billions of dollars the Brazilian leader is calling on the U.S. to pay in exchange for reduced Amazon deforestation.

It was just last October when Biden and Bolsonaro were trading verbal punches about the Amazon rainforest. Bolsonaro had become globally infamous for pushing Amazon development and the deforestation that comes with it. Then-presidential candidate Biden warned of U.S. “economic consequences” if Bolsonaro kept it up — and Bolsonaro called Biden’s rhetoric “coward threats.”

But it turns out there was one part of Biden’s jab Bolsonaro liked: an offer of billions of U.S. dollars to help developing countries combat climate change. So on the eve of Biden’s virtual Earth Day Summit this week, Bolsonaro took him up on it.

Bolsonaro, one of 40 heads of state Biden invited to take part in the summit, said the U.S. should give Brazil $1 billion “up front” in exchange for better Amazon stewardship.

He said it would help Brazilians find economic alternatives to practices like slash-and-burn farming in the Amazon, which in recent years have led to record deforestation. Bolsonaro estimates the U.S. funds would help Brazil reduce deforestation by some 40 percent.

Biden seems keen on the idea. But a chorus of Brazilian politicians and environmentalists are warning him not to trust Bolsonaro.

They fear the right-wing climate-change denier will end up misusing the funds in the run-up to his re-election bid next year — disbursing it as political patronage in the Amazon, they foresee, which will end up actually contributing to more rather than less deforestation activity.