The Amazon climate summit is over and a final joint declaration, called the Belem Declaration, has created an alliance for combatting forest destruction without any overall conclusion or guiding principle, with countries left to pursue their individual goals to restrict further deforestation.
The nearly 10,000-word road map asserted Indigenous rights and protections, while also agreeing to cooperate on water management, health, common negotiating positions at climate summits, and sustainable development.
The declaration additionally established a science body to meet annually and produce authoritative reports on science related to the Amazon rainforest, akin to the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change.
But the summit stopped short of environmentalists’ and Indigenous groups’ boldest demands, including for all member countries to adopt Brazil’s pledge to end illegal deforestation by 2030 and Colombia’s pledge to halt new oil exploration.
It also did not fix a deadline on ending illegal gold mining, although leaders agreed to cooperate on the issue, and did not include shared commitments to zero deforestation by 2030.
Fellow Amazon countries rebuffed Colombia’s left-wing President Gustavo Petro’s continuing campaign to end new oil development in the Amazon.
“A jungle that extracts oil – is it possible to maintain a political line at that level? Bet on death and destroying life?” Petro said.
He said the idea of making a gradual “energy transition” away from fossil fuels was a way to delay the work needed to stop climate change and likened the left’s desire to keep drilling for oil to the right-wing denial of climate science.
He also spoke about finding ways to reforest pastures and plantations, which cover much of Brazil’s heartland for cattle ranching and growing soy.
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has presented himself as an environmental leader on the international stage, has refrained from taking a definitive stance on oil, citing the decision as a technical matter.
Brazil is weighing whether to develop a potentially huge offshore oil find near the mouth of the Amazon River and the country’s northern coast, which is dominated by rainforest.
“What we are discussing in Brazil today is research of an extensive and large area – in my vision perhaps the last frontier of oil and gas before … the energy transition,” Brazil’s Energy Minister Alexandre Silveira told reporters after Petro’s speech.
Ecuador has a pending referendums later this month on both gold and oil extraction in the Amazon. The extractions have been bitterly opposed by local indigenous people, and yet the country is heavily dependent on oil exports for the general prosperity of the country, but Ecuador’s oil revenues have never benefited its poorest citizens, many of whom live in small forest communities very close to drilling sites.
For instance, after 30 years of oil extraction virtually at its back door, the forest hamlet of Yarentaro has neither a sanitation system nor running water.
Nemo Guiquita, the Waorani leader, has been fighting the expansion of oil drilling in her tribe’s ancestral homeland for years. She said her grandmother, Nayuma, was the first Waorani to make contact with the outside world 60 years ago.
“The rainforest for us is home,” Guiquita said. “It’s our life, our pharmacy, our everything.” More than 400 gas flares dot the scarred landscape in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
They spew clouds of chemicals into the air from the burning off of natural gas produced from oil wells and indigenous people have brought law suits claiming that the burn-offs have affected their health.
Sources: BBC, Al Jazeera, various local media in Ecuador.