Asian, African Nations Join Amazon Meeting to Preserve Rainforests

09 August 2023

Representatives of nations with rainforests in Asia and Africa joined leaders from eight Amazon-area countries for a meeting in Brazil on Wednesday.

The nations will produce a statement called "United for our Forests" to be presented at COP 28 in November. COP 28 is the United Nations climate change conference and it will be held in the Middle Eastern city of Dubai.

The eight South American countries, known as the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO), opened the meeting on Tuesday.

Leaders pose for a group photo during the Amazon Summit at the Hangar Convention Center in Belem, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Leaders pose for a group photo during the Amazon Summit at the Hangar Convention Center in Belem, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

The ACTO includes Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. The nations agreed to work on developing their economies without harming the rainforest to a "point of no return."

Representatives also came from the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia and the French territory of Guiana. The president of Norway, a contributor to the Amazon fund for sustainable development, also joined.

Scientists say when 20 to 25 percent of the Amazon rainforest is destroyed, it will reduce rainfall and change the environment. The land will get drier and many kinds of plants and animals will die out.

Some environmental activists, however, criticized Tuesday's event, saying the countries did not create a plan with clear goals and deadlines.

Brazil's president is Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva. In his third term as leader, he is working to save the Amazon. A study last month showed his efforts caused a 42 percent drop in deforestation in only seven months.

The Amazon stretches across an area twice the size of India. Two-thirds of it lies in Brazil, with seven other countries and French Guiana sharing the remaining third.

Until recently, critics say South American governments saw the rainforest as a resource for materials they could use to grow their economies. Trees were cleared for cattle, companies drilled for oil and mined the land for minerals and metals, and cities and roads were built through the forest. Indigenous people lost their land and plants and animals became endangered.

All the Amazon nations signed the 2015 Paris climate agreement to reduce pollution. But experts say the countries have had problems working together. They say the latest agreement should require all nations to end deforestation by 2030. So far, only Brazil and Colombia agreed on that deadline.

The nations are also divided on oil drilling in the Amazon. Colombian leader Gustavo Petro called for an end to oil exploration but other nations are not sure they want to follow.

The ACTO meeting, however, did receive support from one Indigenous leader, Fany Kuiru of Colombia. Kuiru praised the group for recognizing the rights of native people to traditional lands and opening a way for indigenous people to participate.

In a discussion on Tuesday, da Silva said the Amazon is a "passport to a new relationship with the world" where its resources can be "valued and put in the service of everyone."

I'm Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a report by the Associated Press.


Words in This Story

sustainable adj. able to continue for a long time without harming the environment

deadline –n. a time that a project must be completed by

deforestation –n. the act of removing trees for a forest so the land can be used for something else, or the trees can be used for lumber

indigenous –n. people who originally lived in a land

endangered –adj. at risk of dying out