No next Tuesday and Wednesday (8 and 9), when they gather in Belém for the Amazon Summit, the heads of state of the Amazonian countries are expected to sign a declaration of regional cooperation, primarily in the areas of security and climate change. Despite being the main cause of the climate crisis, fossil fuels are expected to be excluded from the final commitment of the summit.
According to people close to the negotiations of the latest draft of the joint declaration, which underwent adjustments in a meeting among the countries at the end of July, the text is not expected to mention the term fossil fuels.
Colombia has been advocating for countries to commit to eliminating fossil energy sources such as oil, coal, and gas. However, Brazil and other countries in the region prefer to leave open the possibility of exploration, including in the Amazon rainforest – the drilling of the Amazon Mouth awaits the environmental assessment of sedimentary areas.
Negotiators sought to compensate for the absence of the term fossil fuels by mentioning infrastructure projects that “respect socio-environmental criteria” and “preliminary consultation with traditional populations, in accordance with ILO Convention 169 (International Labour Organization)”.
With an initial draft proposed by Brazil, which convened the summit, the text under negotiation now comprises 108 paragraphs and 21 pages. The choice for a long text seeks to change the tradition of short declarations from the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO). Some paragraphs exceed the scope of the organization, such as air traffic and international police cooperation.
While disagreeing about the end of fossil fuels, Brazil and Colombia have reached a consensus on ending deforestation. Both countries already have national goals to halt deforestation and would like to see this goal expanded to cover the entire Amazon, but they face resistance from other countries.
In the Brazilian view, the challenge, beyond a common goal, is to design cooperation that goes beyond the sum of national efforts in combating deforestation, so that the positive results in one part of the Amazon do not encourage the migration of illegal activities to other countries in the region.
The commitments to end deforestation and fossil fuels are also expected to be the focus of proposals put forth by civil society. Environmental, social, and indigenous organizations will meet in the days preceding the summit, also in Belém, for the Amazon Dialogues.
Organized by the Office of Chief of Staff of the Presidency, the Dialogues serve as a close connection to the Amazon Summit: heads of state are expected to receive five summary reports from the dialogues, which can, at least in theory, influence the outcome of the text negotiated by the countries.
The process has been widely criticized by civil society organizations, who expected a more participatory approach from the federal government.
“With the resumption of closer relations with the government, there is great hope that participation will be a meaningful contribution, and not something excluded from the official process,” says Cintya Feitosa, specialist in international relations at the Climate and Society Institute (ICS).
“The summit will be a test of this government’s commitment to ensuring that society has a seat at the negotiating table, or if we will be relegated to mere spectators,” says Diego Casaes, campaigns director at Avaaz.
According to Raul do Valle, public policy expert at WWF, the agreement-building process has been opaque. “At no time have we had access to the initial proposal from the Brazilian government, we do not know what is being negotiated,” he says.
“We expect a declaration that aims to avoid the point of no return for the Amazon rainforest, to end illegal mining, which is an organized and transnational crime, and to close gaps in protected areas, consolidating corridors [that integrate these areas],” he adds.
When asked, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded with a statement saying that the first version of the Belém Declaration was drafted based on inputs from civil society provided at the Sustainable Development in the Amazon seminar held in May.
“The governments of the eight countries [members of ACTO] equally received contributions from civil society for the declaration at the Amazon Technical-Scientific Meeting, promoted by the government of Colombia [in early July],” the statement adds.
President Lula is expected to host President Gustavo Petro of Colombia, President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, President Luis Arce of Bolivia, President Dina Boluarte of Peru, and Prime Minister Mark Phillips of Guyana in Belém. Ecuardor and Suriname are expected to send ministerial representatives.
Lula has also extended invitations to major donors of the Amazon Fund and ACTO, such as Norway and Germany, who are expected to have representatives at the event, as well as major tropical forest holders: Indonesia, the Republic of the Congo, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo will also send ministers to the summit.
The Brazilian proposal is to articulate a position among forested and developing countries to bring to the UN climate negotiations, which currently have fragmented positions from nations regarding the forest agenda.