Macron Is on a Mission to Save the Amazon – With or Without Bolsonaro's Help

In an interview with VICE News, France President Emmanuel Macron explains why France is giving $100 million to save tropical rainforests.

by Agnes Walton and Seb Walker
24 September 2019, 8:19am

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

French President Emmanuel Macron is not letting a feud with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stop him from attempting to save the Amazon.

On Monday, Macron said France would commit $100 million to protect the Amazon, as part of a larger $500 million package funded by Brazil’s neighbours, Colombia and Chile, as well as European donors Germany, Britain and the European Union.

The funding will support a pact, reached in Leticia, Colombia, in early September, which was a rapid response to the more than 80,000 fires that tore through the forest this year. Its aim is to increase satellite surveillance and disaster response capacity, and start reforesting after the destruction.

But the man who governs by far the biggest stretch of forest, Jair Bolsonaro, wasn’t in the room to sign the pact in person, a signal to some of a lack of commitment to its goals.

VICE News sat down with Macron at the sidelines of a climate summit ahead of the United Nations General Assembly to discuss the fund and his goals for the Amazon forest. .

"When you look at the situation today, in the past 50 years we lost 20 percent of the Amazonian forest," Macron said. "The purpose of what we launched on this alliance for rainforest is in fact to say we have to avoid the fires, and what happened in different countries in the past weeks, we have to build an actual strategy to preserve biodiversity."

A feud between Macron and Bolsonaro erupted last month when the French President criticised Bolsonaro’s management of the forest, and called for emergency talks at the August G7 summit in Biarritz to stop the rainforest fires.

Bolsonaro bristled at what he viewed as a colonial overstep and retaliated with what Macron called "extraordinarily rude" comments about his wife, Brigitte. Things escalated so far that Brazil’s tourism ambassador threatened to choke the French President.

Macron said none of that will stop him from working with Bolsonaro.

"This is not an argument, by people insulting them, or insulting their wives and so on. It’s unacceptable and unbearable and I don’t accept it. But it doesn’t mean I don’t want to work with them because it’s Brazil and I represent France," he said.

But he did say insulting women is not the sign of a good leader.

“When you are leaders, you have to provide an example, and you have to promote respect,” he said. ”When yourself you provide such an example of absence of respect, of absence of respect especially vis-a-vis women, I mean you are not a good leader.”

Cover: Photo by Zach Caldwell/VICE News
Emmanuel Macron
Jair Bolsonaro
amazon fires