Brazil’s Lula says King Charles urged him to protect Amazon

LONDON – Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva revealed on Saturday that King Charles III, a fervent environmentalist, had personally asked him to protect the Amazon rainforest.

Lula and the British monarch met at Buckingham Palace in London on Friday evening, on the eve of the king’s coronation.

“The first thing the king said to me was that I should talk care of the Amazon,” Lula told a press conference in London.

“I replied: ‘I need help’,” said the Brazilian leader, whose country is home to 60 per cent of the world’s largest tropical rainforest, a vital carbon sink.

On Friday, after a meeting between Lula and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Britain pledged to contribute 80 million pounds (S$133.99 million) to the Amazon Fund, created in 2008 to preserve the rainforest.

On Saturday, Lula urged developed countries to take the climate emergency “very seriously”.

As he did at the United Nations climate conference in Egypt in November, he severely criticised the wealthy nations for not keeping the promise they made in 2009 to contribute US$100 billion per year to helping the world’s poorest countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.

“These countries, who destroyed their forests when they industrialised 200 years ago, need to understand they have a debt as far as carbon emissions are concerned and they need to pay that debt so we can protect our forest,” he said.

Lula, who returned to power in January after two terms of office between 2003 and 2010, has pledged to give priority to protecting the Amazon and to end illegal deforestation there by 2030.

“It’s a matter of honour,” he said in London.

Under Lula’s far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, average annual tree loss in the Amazon rose 75 percent compared to the previous decade.

During King Charles’s coronation on Saturday, Lula briefly met French President Emmanuel Macron and agreed they would discuss Ukraine by telephone.

His senior aide, Celso Amorim, is to travel to Ukraine on May 10 after visiting Moscow in April, he said.

Lula has been criticised by the West for saying Ukraine and Russia both bear responsibility or the conflict. AFP

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