Brazil has been accused of obstructing global efforts to protect nature following a dispute over the use of virtual meeting technology to overcome Covid-19 restrictions.
The dispute threatens a key United Nations conference in Kunming, China, next year, which aims to set new goals to protect Earth’s natural life support systems.
Environmental activists said the world’s forests and wildlife cannot afford any delay and accused Brazil, home of the world’s largest rainforest, of disrupting negotiations under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. (CBD) in the same way as Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer. it has delayed progress on the climate talks.
The frustrations reached a pitch on Thursday, when the CBD president announced suspension of budget talks due to objection from Brazil.
The main subject of controversy was a reference to the online negotiations in the 2021 budget.
Many countries want to negotiate in virtual meetings to make up for lost time because the Kunming conference was postponed due to the pandemic and may have to be delayed again from the rescheduled date for next May. The longer an agreement is delayed, the more difficult it will be to achieve the proposed 2030 goals.
Brazil opposes formal online negotiations that it says would put poorer nations at a disadvantage because they are more likely to have interconnectivity problems. Several developing nations have voiced similar doubts, but none have used this as a reason to delay budget talks, without which the CBD cannot operate.
The head of Brazil’s CBD negotiating team, Leonardo de Athayde, said his country was not blocking the budget, simply proposing a minor amendment. “We have to be careful with the process. If we want a good result, it must be inclusive, transparent and fair, ”he said.
But longtime observers of the negotiations said Brazil’s actions were a concern to many other nations, including China, which co-chairs the CBD and will host next year’s meeting.
“This is a hot potato for the incoming president, China,” said Li Shuo, a policy adviser at Greenpeace China. “We have to think of Brazil as Saudi Arabia in the CBD in terms of the distance they are willing to travel to make their point, their radical approach and their destructive strategy. They are showing that they are a formidable player trying to steer Kunming in a negative direction. “
Activists said Brazil’s actions showed the country was taking a less cooperative stance under the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, who wants to open up the Amazon rainforest, the Pantanal wetlands and the Cerrado savanna to agricultural, mining and logging interests.
Oscar Soria, campaign manager for the activism site Avaaz, said: “This is a deliberate strategy to avoid negotiations on new goals for nature. While we share concerns about the technical challenges for some countries and observers to constantly hold online meetings, we do not forget the past efforts of the Bolsonaro administration to limit civil society participation in the CBD talks, thus that for us it is difficult to believe that Bolsonaro’s diplomacy advocates for inclusion ”.
Brazilian negotiators denied that their country was holding back progress.
“I categorically reject these accusations. It is a completely unfair and damaging description. We are not obstructing the process at all, ”said de Athayde.
Brazil’s position was expressed in less diplomatic language by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at a virtual summit of world leaders in September. He accused NGOs and foreign governments of “interfering” with Brazil’s sovereignty and rejected what he called “unfair” rules on resource extraction. “That is precisely what we intend to do with the enormous wealth of resources in the Brazilian territory,” he said.
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