Dis-united States of the Amazon – Climate Weekly

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Indigenous people take part in a march as the Amazon Summit kicks off in Belem, Brazil. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino


Climate politics watchers had pinned major hopes on the much-hyped Amazon Summit this week.

It is easy to see why. For the first time in 14 years, leaders from eight Amazonian nations came together in the Brazilian city of Bèlem to sketch out a plan to tackle deforestation.

The biggest success is that the meeting happened at all. It would have been an unfathomable proposition less than a year ago under the then-presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, who was overseeing a skyrocketing increase in tree-chopping in the Amazon rainforest.

When it comes to the summit’s outcome things get less rosy. The countries agreed to a long list of policies and areas of possible cooperation. But, as environmental groups put it, the Bèlem Declaration looks like “a compilation of good intentions with little in the way of measurable goals and timeframes”.

There are two notable absentees in the final document: a pledge to end deforestation by 2030 and any mention of halting fossil fuel expansion in the Amazon.

The former met the insurmountable opposition of the Bolivian government, according to Brazilian officials quoted in the FT and the Guardian. The latter, pushed by Colombia’s Gustavo Petro, always looked doomed given Brazil is still looking into plans to develop a huge offshore oil field near the mouth of the Amazon River.

The Amazon nations did, however, manage to unite around a thinly-veiled attack on new EU deforestation rules affecting imported commodities

European leaders see this as a key lever in the fight to save rainforests. But the eight countries – and many other forest nations worldwide – slam the environmental rules as “protectionist” trade barriers.

This fight will continue at the negotiations over the EU-Mercosur free trade deal.

This week’s news:

Climate-unfriendly economics

Mainstream economists have a dangerous habit of playing down climate change.

At least that’s according to two recent reports that reached the same conclusion: economic models ignore tipping points, floods, droughts and indoor work. Glaring omissions that end up hugely underplaying the economic damage of global warming.

This is not just an academic exercise. The models are relied upon by investors, politicians, central bank governors and influential bodies like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

If economists get it wrong, decisions made on the basis of their work will prove costly.

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