France backs bold new pact to save Amazon


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A groundbreaking effort to protect the Amazon rainforest just got a massive boost.

France has committed US$ 100 million to a new South American-led initiative, it was announced at a side event to the UN Climate Action Summit in New York on Monday, with Conservation International pledging an additional US$ 20 million. The actor Harrison Ford, a Conservation International board member, made the announcement during brief remarks at Monday’s meeting at the United Nations.

The funding is aimed at supporting the Leticia Pact, an agreement signed earlier this month at a summit of seven of the nine Amazonian countries to address deforestation, fires and sustainable development in the world’s largest rainforest.

The summit, convened Sept. 6 in the Amazonian city of Leticia, Colombia, by Colombian President Ivan Duque, represents a rare and high-level collective effort to protect the Amazon, where deforestation has been on the rise again after years of decline, and which has been plagued by fires in recent months.

The pact lists 16 points on which the countries intend to collaborate, including reforestation initiatives, actions against illegal mining and the creation of a natural disaster network, among others.

“With the Leticia Pact, a framework for recognizing and protecting this valuable forest and its peoples … there is a way forward,” Ford said to the gathering, which included the presidents of Colombia, Chile and France. “But this initiative must have funding. It must have teeth. It must have legislative legitimacy.”

Ford left no doubts about where the funding should be directed.

“This money must go directly to indigenous peoples and civil society,” he said to cheers from some in the audience. “The people on the front lines, the people on the ground, the people with their feet in the mud.”

Scientists say that deforestation in the Amazon is pushing the region to a tipping point at which the forest will gradually turn into dry savanna — and which humans will be unable to reverse. Once sufficiently degraded, the forest will lose its ability to generate its own rainfall, thereby preventing the rainforest ecosystem from being able to exist at all — with catastrophic implications for the global climate.

“Without the Amazon, without the largest standing tropical forest in the world, we cannot achieve a climate solution,” Ford said.

The actor closed his remarks with a stern reminder to the gathering of whom they were fighting for.

“There is a new force of nature at hand, stirring all over the world. They are the young people whom, frankly, we have failed. Who are angry. Who are organized. Who are capable of making a difference.”

“The most important thing we can do for them is to get the hell out of their way.”

Bruno Vander Velde is the senior communications director for Conservation International

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Cover image: A cloud forest in the Ecuadorian Amazon. (© Katrine Olson)


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