Protecting the Amazon

I am sure that I am not the only reader who is horrified by the scenes of the Amazon rainforest burning.  We cannot escape the reality of the damage that humans are inflicting on the natural world.  The planet faces two immense threats: climate change and biodiversity loss. These are two sides of the same coin – it is impossible to solve one challenge without fixing the other. We cannot stop climate change without protecting the natural environment and we cannot restore global nature without tackling climate change.

On Monday the Government made £10 million immediately available to help step up efforts to protect and restore the Amazon rainforest in Brazil – including in areas affected by the current fires.

£10 million will be invested through the Partnerships for Forests programme, alongside funding already invested in projects across Brazil, Colombia and Peru to support communities and businesses now and in the longer term to help to protect the Amazon. The new funding builds on support to restore the rainforest in Brazil and neighbouring countries, and will help to safeguard the huge biodiversity of animal and plant species found in the Amazon.

The Amazon produces more than 20% of the world’s oxygen and is home to 10% of the known species in the world. The number of forest fires in Brazil since January (more than 74,000) has increased by 83% compared with the same period last year.

I am a founder member of the Conservative Environment Network and I am pleased that the Prime Minister supports our manifesto. On Monday, at a meeting of the leaders of the largest economies, the PM demanded that new, international targets to restore the natural environment are far more ambitious than the existing Aichi biodiversity targets – which expire in 2020.

Biodiversity is declining faster than at any time in human history. And scientists have warned that even a 1.5°C rise in global temperatures would further devastate nature and humanity. The world’s animal populations have declined by 60% in the last 50 years, with around 1 million species facing extinction. Every year 1 million birds and 100,000 sea mammals die from eating or getting tangled in plastic waste. The amount of plastic in the sea is set to treble in the next decade.

Protecting nature will help tackle climate change by supporting ecosystems – like the world’s oceans – that soak up carbon from the atmosphere, and by preserving natural barriers such as mangroves which act as flood defences.

Working globally is essential and the PM announced a doubling of the U.K. contribution to Green Climate Fund (GCF) – £1.44 billion over the next four years.

The GCF supports a number of programmes to preserve natural habitats around the world – including to tackle deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. It’s estimated that existing GCF projects will take the equivalent of 1.5bn tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere – the same as taking 300 million cars off the road for a whole year or every plane out of the sky for 18 months.

First published in the West Briton 28/08/19