The Brazilian government on Monday rejected the offer by the Group of Seven, or G-7, countries to help fight the fire raging in the Amazon rain forest, AFP reported. The G-7 club – comprising Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – had pledged $20 million earlier in the day to help fight the fires.

“We appreciate [the offer], but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe,” Onyx Lorenzoni, chief of staff to President Jair Bolsonaro, told the G1 news website. “Macron cannot even avoid a foreseeable fire in a church that is a world heritage site,” he added. “What does he intend to teach our country?” Lorenzoni was referring to the fire that ravaged the Notre-Dame cathedral in April.

“Brazil is a democratic, free nation that never had colonialist and imperialist practices, as perhaps is the objective of the Frenchman Macron,” Lorenzoni claimed.

French President Emmanuel Macron said that the G-7 agreed to a medium-term reforestation plan. However, this plan will require the approval of both the Brazilian government and local tribes living in the rain forest.

“We must respond to the call of the forest which is burning today in the Amazon,” Macron said on Monday at the G-7 Summit in Biarritz, France.

However, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro alleged that the country was being treated like “a colony or no man’s land”, and denounced the creation of an international alliance to save the Amazon as an attack on his nation’s sovereignty.

Macron had earlier threatened to block a trade deal between Brazil and the European Union until Bolsonaro, a climate change sceptic, takes serious steps to address the problem. The relations between the two leaders deteriorated even further after Brazil’s leader mocked Macron’s wife on Facebook.

Last week, Macron had called the fires a global crisis that should be addressed at the G-7 summit, but Bolsonaro accused Macron of having a “colonialist mindset” and told him to stay out of Brazilian business.

Bowing to international pressure, Brazil on Sunday finally deployed the military to help douse the fires. This year, 78,383 forest fires have been recorded in Brazil, the most in a year since 2013, according to official data.

Earlier in the week, Bolsonaro had accused non-governmental organisations of starting the fires. Later, however, he admitted that farmers might have been involved. Environmentalists say his plans to promote agriculture and mining in the Amazon region will speed up deforestation.

Also read: Amazon burning: Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro blames NGOs for wildfires ravaging rainforest

Earth’s lungs on fire

The rainforest – known as the world’s lungs – produces a fifth of the world’s oxygen, comprises at least 40% of Earth’s rainforests, and is home to three million species of plants and animals, and indigenous people. Preserving it is critical to the fight against global warming.

According to environmentalists and Bolsonaro’s critics, the fires in Amazon are connected to the president’s rollback of environmental protections of the rainforest. Part of Bolsonaro’s presidential campaign included promise to open up access to Brazil’s protected lands for commercial use. In less than a year since his election, the country has lost more than 3,445 square km of forest cover – 39% increase from the same time period in 2018. According to some estimates, Brazil lost 7,900 square km of Amazon forest, or nearly a billion trees, between August 2017 and July 2018.

When asked about the fires, Bolsonaro had said it was the time of the year for “queimada” or burn, when farmers use fire to clear land. “I used to be called Captain Chainsaw,” he said. “Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame. But it is the season of the queimada.”

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