G7 leaders offer millions to fight Amazon fires


G7 leaders meeting in Biarritz, France, vowed on Monday to help Brazil and other South American countries fight wildfires that are ravaging the Amazon.

The world’s leading democracies agreed to a co-ordinated plan they hope will snuff out the record number of fires and contribute to reforestation. It includes providing $20 million US ($26.5 million Cdn) in emergency aid.

French President Emmanuel Macron put the Amazon wildfires on the G7 agenda at the last minute, and announced the plan following a morning-long meeting with his counterparts, including from Canada.

The situation in the Amazon had come up at every one-on-one meeting held by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with other world leaders. 

A Canadian official — speaking on the sidelines of the summit —  said Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has spoken with her Brazilian counterpart and offered help.

The official did not specify whether the assistance would be military or civilian, but noted that Canada has gained considerable experience in battling this kind of climate threat over the last few years.

Trump missing from meeting

Brazil has deployed its military and warplanes have been used to douse vast tracts of the rainforest, which has been burning out of control.

Brazil’s president continued to downplay the situation over the weekend, saying the country has wildfires every year.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, shown Sunday in Biarritz, France, are among Western leaders at the G7. (The Associated Press)

The Brazilians have not yet accepted the Canadian offer, but are said to be “assessing their needs.”

Climate change — specifically the loss of biodiversity — was already on the G7 agenda when this Amazon rainforest crisis gained prominence. Leaders spent Monday morning discussing it, althoug notably absent was U.S. President Donald Trump.

Macron defended the president at the news conference, saying Trump had meetings with other world leaders at the same time, and was in general agreement over the need to fight the wildfires.