Brazil's Bolsonaro nixes plans to host U.N. climate event

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Far-right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro said on Wednesday that he pushed the Brazilian government to withdraw its offer to host the United Nations climate conference next year, maintaining that Brazil’s sovereignty over the Amazon was at stake.

FILE PHOTO: Skyline of Rio De Janeiro is pictured at sunset June 28, 2014. In a project called 'On The Sidelines' Reuters photographers share pictures showing their own quirky and creative view of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Bolsonaro, in Brasilia planning his government’s transition for when he takes power on Jan. 1, told reporters that “I participated in the decision” - announced earlier Wednesday by the Foreign Ministry, which cited high costs.

“I told my future foreign minister to avoid hosting this event here in Brazil,” Bolsonaro said. The next foreign minister, Ernesto Araújo, has said climate change was part of a plot against western economic growth.

Bolsonaro has threatened to follow the lead of U.S. President Donald Trump and yank Brazil out of the Paris climate agreement, which was the reason, along with high cost, Bolsonaro gave for not wanting to host the November 2019 conference.

“The ‘Triple A’ is at play in that accord,” Bolsonaro said. “What is the ‘Triple A’? It’s a big strip between the Andes, Amazon and Atlantic ... that could result in our losing sovereignty over the area. The idea is to turn it into a ecological corridor.”

Last month, the Foreign Ministry announced Brazil’s offer to host the event in a press release, saying the meeting would work out final details of the Paris agreement and for signatory countries to fully implement its demands by 2020.

Hosting the event would have confirmed Brazil’s “role as a world leader on sustainable development issues, especially in relation to climate change.”

Brazil, which has 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest within its borders, a biome scientists consider one of nature’s best defenses against global warming as it acts as a giant carbon sink, has made significant strides in the past 15 years to curtail destruction of the jungle.

However, Brazil’s government reported last week that annual deforestation levels had hit their highest level in a decade.

The environmental group Observatorio da Clima said on its website that the decision to withdraw its offer to host the event is “not the first and will not be the last awful news from Jair Bolsonaro on this theme.”

Bolsonaro had also sought to combine the environmental and agricultural ministries but later retreated from that proposal.

Reporting by Ricardo Brito in Brasilia, Brad Brooks in Sao Paulo and Alexandra Alper in Rio de Janeiro; Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Grant McCool