The Brasília Chainsaw Massacre

During a climate summit hosted by the U.S. earlier this year, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro promised to end illegal deforestation by 2030, in return for billions in foreign aid. The following day, he slashed the budget for Brazil’s Environment Ministry. 

And ever since, Brazil has posted all-time high deforestation figures for the months of March, April, and May. Despite his grandiose promises (albeit accompanied by hefty price tags), Mr. Bolsonaro is seen internationally as a climate enemy. 

Deforestation certainly did not begin under Mr. Bolsonaro, but it has skyrocketed during his administration. The National Institute of Space Research measures the increase at 67 percent since the far-right leader took power. And pandemic-related budget restraints and work restrictions have only made the situation worse.

Mr. Bolsonaro was heartened by news of U.S. President Joe Biden’s plans for a massive aid project to help save the Amazon rainforest. While facing Donald Trump in last year’s election, Mr. Biden pledged USD 20 billion to climate actions, hoping to show that the U.S. can once again become a leader on climate change.

Part of this plan is rumored to be a worldwide fund, funnelling money to the Brazilian government to stop deforestation, which Environment Minister Ricardo Salles suggests would cost USD 10 billion a year.

But U.S. negotiators have reportedly “stepped back to take stock” amid negotiations with Brazil’s climate tsar, who is now under police investigation for his involvement in an illegal timber export ring.

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