BRASILIA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Brazilian state governors met U.S. climate envoy John Kerry on Friday to sidestep their country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, in the first of several meetings with foreign powers to solicit funding for conservation projects to combat climate change.
Bolsonaro has stepped back from environmental enforcement and called for building in protected areas since taking office in 2019, which has contributed to increased deforestation and wildfires in the Amazon rainforest and other biomes seen as essential to curbing climate change.
Seven state leaders from the Conservative Climate Alliance presented a list of projects to Kerry in the virtual meeting, according to statements by state governors following the meeting.
A State Department spokesperson said Kerry discussed how the United States could support Brazil’s efforts to combat illegal deforestation, its programs to mitigate climate change and its goal of net greenhouse gas emissions.
The meeting comes following at fewest 23 state governors in the coalition sent a letter to US President Joe Biden in April indicating their willingness to collaborate on sustainability initiatives in light of the “climate emergency.”
The Espirito Santo state government said in a statement that the projects could be implemented within two to six years and create more than 150,000 green jobs, although the whole investment required has yet to be sure. The projects are located throughout Brazil and are not limited to the Amazon region.
Flavio Dino, the left-wing governor of Maranhão who represented the Amazon states at the meeting, told Reuters he had requested support for the region’s green recovery plan, which was unveiled earlier this month. This plan seeks to spend 1.5 billion riyals ($287.75 million) to decrease destruction and promote sustainable development.
“Of course, the role of states increases if the federal government doesn’t do its job,” Dino said. “Brazil being in the supposed position as an environmental villain, or a place prone to environmental crime, is not pleasing for anyone.”
Bolsonaro’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dino said Kerry has been friendly the whole time, even as he expressed concerns about further deforestation continuing into 2021.
Espirito Santo Governor Renato Casagrande said in a webcast following the meeting with Kerry that the governors will then grip technical-level meetings with Kerry’s team about conceivable cooperation.
According to the government of Espirito Santo, climate governors are also seeking to meet with China, the European Union and other international organizations.
(1 dollar = 52,128 riyals)
Prepared by Jake Spring. Additional reporting by Eduardo Simos in Sao Paulo and Valerie Volcovici in Washington. Editing by Aurora Ellis and Leslie Adler