France to Partner with Brazil States on Amazon, Bypassing Bolsonaro

MADRID — France and a group of Brazilian states plan to announce a partnership to preserve the Amazon rainforest, the group’s leader said on Monday, bypassing Brazil’s federal government after a spat between the presidents of the two countries.

The governor of Amapá state, Waldez Góes, who heads a consortium of the nine states that make up Brazil’s vast Amazon region, told Reuters that the partnership would be announced at the United Nations climate summit in Madrid this week and would include other initiatives aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Fires in Brazil’s section of the rainforest, which accounts for 60 percent of the overall Amazon and is seen as a bulwark against climate change, surged in August to their highest point since 2010. The widespread blazes provoked an international outcry that Brazil was not doing enough to protect its forest.

President Emmanuel Macron of France called for urgent actions to be taken on the fires, rapidly becoming embroiled in a war of words with Brazil’s right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro.

Mr. Macron accused Mr. Bolsonaro of lying to world leaders about Brazil’s commitment to preserving the environment. Mr. Bolsonaro at one point insulted Mr. Macron’s wife and said he would only accept $20 million in aid offered by the Group of 7 nations if the French president withdrew his “insults.”

Mr. Góes said the nine Brazilian states would announce a mechanism on Tuesday to allow foreign countries to contribute directly to state-level projects to preserve the Amazon.

He said that the states had approached several European countries about funding such efforts.

The nonbinding partnership with France could lay the groundwork for the country to provide eventual financial support to the states’ environmental projects, Mr. Góes said. It was not clear whether talks will advance far enough at the summit for France to announce an amount that it would contribute, the governor added.

A spokesman for the French delegation at the conference declined to comment.

Environmentalists have blamed Mr. Bolsonaro for Amazon deforestation hitting an 11-year high, as he has prioritized economic development of the rainforest over conservation.

“The Brazilian president has in his official agenda the exploitation of the Amazon,” said Nara Baré, a Brazilian Indigenous representative at a protest outside the two-week climate summit in Madrid, set to conclude on Friday.

Mr. Bolsonaro has said the media has sensationalized the Amazon fires and demonized him.