Biden to Pledge $500 Million to Stop Deforestation in Brazil

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday will pledge $500 million over five years to fight deforestation in Brazil, a White House official said, in a move that would make the United States one of the largest donors to the global Amazon Fund.

But the pledge would require approval from Congress, where Republicans are overwhelmingly opposed to international climate assistance and have made it difficult for President Biden to deliver on his promises to help poorer nations cope with climate change.

Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has been working with the Biden administration on several issues, including climate change, despite Mr. Lula’s criticism of U.S. support for Ukraine in its war with Russia.

The Amazon Fund, a conservation program, was established by Brazil in 2008 and has bankrolled efforts to curb deforestation in the world’s largest rainforest. Norway, the first and largest contributor to the fund, has donated more than $1.2 billion. Germany recently announced a $217 million donation.

But the fund was suspended under Mr. Lula’s far-right predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, who weakened environmental protections and saw annual average deforestation rates soar, reaching levels the country hadn’t experienced in more than a decade.

Inside the Amazon Rainforest

Mr. Lula took office in January with a promise to end deforestation in the Amazon by 2030. But his administration has had a rough start. Preliminary data suggests that deforestation rates have continued to rise, as his administration tries to rebuild environmental protections.

The Amazon plays an important role in regulating water cycles, stabilizing the climate and absorbing carbon dioxide. By one estimate, there are 150 billion to 200 billion metric tons of carbon locked away in the forest. But as trees are cut down, parts of the forest now emit more carbon dioxide than they absorb.

John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy for climate change, is expected to announce the pledge at a gathering in Washington of representatives from some of the world’s largest economies. The White House said in a fact sheet that the pledge comes “in the context of Brazil’s renewed commitment to end deforestation by 2030.” The U.S. is also expected to call on other countries to contribute to the fund.

“That’s a lot of money,” said Suely Araújo, a policy expert at the Climate Observatory, an environmental group in Brazil. “It’s a sign of trust in the new administration, that it can manage this, and that it’s making an effort to control deforestation.”

“I really hope Congress approves it,” Ms. Araújo said. “It’s really needed for what Brazil needs to do.”

Mr. Biden has pledged to deliver $11.4 billion annually in international climate aid by 2024 but so far is nowhere close to that goal. Last year Congress approved only $1 billion — despite Democratic control of both the House and the Senate.

“We are working as hard as possible to try to get to that goal and make good on the president’s pledge,” said Sarah Ladislaw, a special assistant to Mr. Biden and the senior director for climate and energy on the White House National Security Council.

With Republicans now controlling the House and Democrats holding just a slim majority in the Senate, winning approval for additional money for things like the Amazon Fund will be an uphill battle.

But in at least one instance, the Biden administration has found a way around Republican opposition.

Last year, Republicans cut funds that the administration had pledged to the Green Climate Fund, a United Nations-led program to help poor countries transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and increase resilience to climate disasters. On Thursday the administration is expected to deliver $1 billion to the fund, tapping discretionary funds within the State Department, according to an administration official.

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