Brazilian president and far-right climate denier Jair Bolsonaro won’t even accept the paltry $20 million that G7 countries pledged towards creating a fund to “help Amazon countries fight wildfires and launch a long-term global initiative to protect the rainforest,” Bolsonaro’s chief of staff Onyx Lorenzoni told Globo on Monday.
“We appreciate it, but maybe these resources would be put to better use reforesting Europe,” Lorenzoni told reporters, according to a translation in the Daily Beast. He then threw in a barb about French President Emmanuel Macron and the fire that swept the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris this year, saying “Macron can’t even prevent a foreseeable fire in a church that is a world heritage site. What does he want to teach our country? He has plenty to take care of at home and in the French colonies.”
Bolsonaro’s government has come under withering international criticism over wildfires ravaging the Amazon rainforest, with well over 70,000 such blazes (80 percent more than last year) documented by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research. While all available evidence indicates the fires are the result of Bolsonaro gutting environmental agencies responsible for preventing illegal land clearance, Bolsonaro repeatedly dismissed them as a non-issue before he pivoted to cooking up conspiracy theories blaming NGOs.
The Amazon is one of the most important ecosystems in the world, and scientists fear that its continued deforestation could push it closer to a tipping point in which the remaining portion could wither and die—with potentially dire effects on the Earth’s already rapidly changing climate. And as for colonialism, indigenous groups, humanitarian organizations, and environmental activists have sounded the alarm that the forest’s continued destruction is a form of genocide, with a coalition of such groups recently pointing the finger at Bolsonaro and Bolivian President Evo Morales in an open letter to the United Nations’ human and indigenous rights offices. As the Beast noted, Brazilian Environment Minister Ricardo Salles had previously told reporters that Bolsonaro would accept the funds.
Macron has called the fires a global crisis, leading to a growing feud between him and Bolsonaro. According to the Associated Press, Macron said at the G7 summit on Monday (local time) that his message to the Brazilian leader is “We respect your sovereignty. It’s your country… But we cannot allow you to destroy everything.”