Brazil seeks $ 1 bln in foreign aid to curb Amazon deforestation by 30-40% – environmental minister

SAO PAULO, (Reuters) – Brazil’s environment minister wants $ 1 billion in foreign aid from countries including the United States to help reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 30% to 40%, according to an interview published Saturday in the O Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper.

“The plan is $ 1 billion over 12 months,” the minister, Ricardo Salles, told the newspaper. “If those resources were available to be used in that way (to combat deforestation), we could commit to a reduction of between 30% and 40% in 12 months.”

Brazil has been widely criticized for its failure to curb deforestation in the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest. Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has said he prefers to exploit the economic resources of the rainforest rather than protect it, and has sent troops to try to deal with the problem with little success.

One-third of the money would be used to directly fund actions to combat deforestation, Salles said, while the remaining two-thirds would be used for economic development, to provide alternative opportunities for people who have benefited from the rainforest.

He added that he had asked the United States for money and had also asked Norway “if they wanted to work together.”

The army would remain in charge, Salles said, because it is cheaper to pay their daily rates than to hire full-time staff at Ibama’s environmental agency. The agency has suffered budget cuts under Bolsonaro.

“If we don’t get the money, we’ll do the best we can with our resources, but I can’t commit to a certain percentage of (deforestation) reduction,” said Salles.