Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has banned the use of fire to clear land throughout the country for 60 days, in response to the massive increase in blazing fires in the Amazon rainforest that has caused international outrage.
According to an official decree, which was released on Thursday morning, the ban started on Wednesday – the day it was signed.
The practice of burning land in rural areas is common among farmers, who will often use fires to clear the land for new crops or livestock.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly insisted the Amazon should be opened to development and has defunded the agencies responsible for cracking down on illegal activity.
Experts say his pro-development policies and lax regulation have led to ranchers and farmers burning the rainforest for purposes of cultivation and farming.
The ban comes after scientists warned that fires which have been raging at a record rate in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, could strike a devastating blow to the fight against climate change.
The Amazon, which spans eight countries and covers 40% of South America, is often referred to as “the planet’s lungs” because estimates show that nearly 20% of oxygen produced by the Earth’s land comes from rainforest. The Amazon also puts an enormous amount of water into the atmosphere at a time when cities are drying up.
Despite environmentalists pointing the finger at Bolsonaro, Brazil’s populist pro-business President who is backed by Brazil’s so-called beef caucus, he has dismissed accusations of responsibility for the fires and declared last week that he would send 43,000 troops to combat the inferno.
He also announced on Wednesday that South American leaders will meet on September 6 in Colombia to discuss policy surrounding the situation in the Amazon, according to Brazilian state news agency Agencia Brasil.
According to Agence France-Presse news agency, on Thursday United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres urged the globe to do more to tackle the Amazonian fires.
“We are strongly appealing for the mobilization of resources and we have been in contact with countries to see whether, during the high-level session of the General Assembly, there could be a meeting devoted to the mobilization of support to the Amazon,” Guterres told reporters from an African development conference in Japan, according to AFP.
Guterres stressed that “until now, we have not done enough, we need to do all together more than we have done in the past,” and called the situation “very serious.”
War of words
Earlier this week, Brazil escalated its war of words with global powers over the Amazon fires, which number over 80,000 this year.
The special communications office for Bolsonaro told CNN on Tuesday morning that Brazil would turn down the $20 million aid offer that was pledged for the Amazon at the G7 summit in France the day before.
However, just an hour later, Bolsonaro appeared to cast doubt on the matter. “Did I say that? Did I? Did Jair Bolsonaro speak?” he asked reporters outside the presidential residence.
The Brazilian President has since softened his stance on the financial aid, suggesting that he would consider the G7’s aid if Macron apologizes for accusing Bolsonaro of “lying” to him about climate commitments during trade negotiations.
The nation has also since accepted $12 million in aid from the UK government, which is a member of the G7.
CNN’s Shasta Darlington reported from São Paulo, Florencia Trucco, Jaide Garcia and Flora Charner reported from Atlanta and Bianca Britton wrote from London.