Brazil's Lula courts U.K., U.S. to join Amazon rainforest protection fund

Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva walks after attending a meeting at the transition government building in Brasilia
Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva walks after attending a meeting at the transition government building in Brasilia, Brazil November 28, 2022. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

BRASILIA, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is asking Britain, France, the United States and others to donate to an international fund to protect the Amazon rainforest, a bulwark against climate change, Lula advisers said on Tuesday.

Lula's team has also approached Switzerland and Canada about contributing, the advisers said.

The Amazon Fund, started under leftist Lula's first administration from 2003-2010, bankrolled conservation projects and counts Norway and Germany as its biggest donors.

Right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro froze the fund, citing unspecified spending irregularities among fund-backed projects run by nongovernmental organizations, without providing evidence. The fund already contains some 3 billion reais ($563.71 million) that has sat unspent for nearly 4 years.

Stopping deforestation in the Amazon, which absorbs vast amounts of planet-warming greenhouse gas, is part of Lula's sweeping plan for Brazil to reclaim leadership on climate change measures. Bolsonaro prioritized economic development over environmental protection and appointed climate skeptics as ministers.

Marina Silva, a former environment minister and adviser on Lula's transition team, said expanding the Amazon Fund would give Lula the resources to take immediate action to protect the environment when he takes office on Jan. 1.

Lula will be working with a 2023 budget that was passed under Bolsonaro and so contributing to the fund, "expanding the resources beyond what's being done already by Norway and Germany, will be very useful for facing this difficult moment we will have," Silva said.

She personally raised the issue with Britain, Canada, France, the United States and Switzerland while attending the COP27 U.N. climate summit in Egypt earlier in November.

The British embassy said its government was studying the invitation to join the Amazon Fund.

Izabella Teixeira, Lula's former environment minister and current climate change adviser, told Reuters she had met with Norwegian and German officials on Monday about restarting the fund.

Norway's Environment Minster Espen Barth Eide said at the U.N. gathering that he expected the fund to restart "very soon after the 1st of January."

Teixeira confirmed that Britain, France and Switzerland had expressed interest in the fund.

The former minister said she had lunch with the British ambassador to Brazil and the head of the U.K. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) about new cooperation, including on the Amazon Fund.

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to visit Brazil in the first half of 2023 to discuss potential cooperation before his country makes a final decision on joining the fund, she said.

The British embassy said its climate and environment ministers had been approached by Brazilian Senator Randolfe Rodrigues and Para state governor Helder Barbalho at the COP27 summit about donating to the fund. Both officials accompanied Lula during his visit to COP27.

The U.S. and Canadian embassies did not immediately respond to requests for comment. French and Swiss embassies declined to comment.

Deforestation soared to a 15-year high under Bolsonaro, who called for more farming and mining in the Amazon region.

Lula has pledged to eliminate deforestation by using every tool at his disposal, including more money and officials for enforcing environmental laws.

($1 = 5.3219 reais)

Reporting by Anthony Boadle and Jake Spring; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Anthony has covered Brazilian politics since 2012, the narrow 2022 election of leftist President Lula following four years of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, and the turbulence faced by Brazilian democracy. He has reported from Chile under General Pinochet and from Havana under Fidel Castro. He has also covered U.S.-Latin American affairs from Washington 1995-2002. Anthony holds an M.A. in Politics from Essex University. Contact: 55 61 98204-1110

Thomson Reuters

Jake Spring reports primarily on forests, climate diplomacy, carbon markets and climate science. Based in Brazil, his investigative reporting on destruction of the Amazon rainforest under ex-President Jair Bolsonaro won 2021 Best Reporting in Latin America from the Overseas Press Club of America ( His beat reporting on Brazil’s environmental destruction won a Covering Climate Now award and was honored by the Society of Environmental Journalists. He joined Reuters in 2014 in China, where he previously worked as editor-in-chief of China Economic Review. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and Brazilian Portuguese.