By Alexia Rauen
Despite the distance from the illustrious Amazon rainforest, the Scandinavian nation of Norway has made significant investments to ensure its ongoing protection. From 2008 to 2014, under the presidencies of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, deforestation of the Amazon was in decline. However, this decline was reversed in the beginning of 2015, after Rousseff’s first four years in office, and has continued through the power grab of Brazilian business interests fronted by Michel Temer. Now, Norway is concerned that Temer’s government is backtracking significant progress in protecting the rainforest, and has announced a reduction of over half of its environmental aid in protest.
Norway grants environmental aid to Brazil through the Amazon Fund. The Amazon Fund is a Brazilian-based monetary initiative, run by the Brazilian Development Bank, that devotes its funding to environmental protection and assistance. To date, Norway has given Brazil $1.1 billion to dedicate to the protection of the rainforest. The Amazon Fund has only two other donors: Germany, at $28 million, and Petrobras, Brazil’s oil firm, at nearly $7 million. This fund is not the sole benefactor of Norway’s efforts, as it also assists in environmental protection in Indonesia, Peru, Liberia, and Guyana. Moreover, Norway financially supports the United Nations Environment Program.
As an environmental wonder, the Amazon supports human life untouched by modern society. Brazil still has about 103 indigenous groups that have never had outside contact. For these groups, the destruction of the rainforest is the destruction of their home and culture. Lars Loevold, of Norway’s Rainforest Foundation, condemned Temer for his failure to establish improvements to indigenous rights. The Instituto Socioambiental, a Brazilian NGO, is dedicated to fighting climate change and helping the indigenous, and is supported by the Norwegian Embassy and Norwegian Church Aid. Evidently, Norway’s involvement in Brazil is motivated not only by a desire to protect the environment but as well by a desire to protect human rights. Through its funding of the Amazon Fund, and with the support of other Norwegian organizations, Norway is helping to prevent deforestation as well as protecting the rights of indigenous peoples who call the forest home.
The decrease in funds from Norway may extend beyond the environmental sector. According to O Estado de São Paulo newspaper in Brazil, Norway is the 8th largest trade partner with Brazil, particularly prominent in the energy sector. Temer has even expressed a desire for the trade organizations to which each country belongs to come together more closely: Norway in the European Free Trade Association and Brazil in Mercosur. However, given Norway’s recent decision to cut aid to the Amazon Fund, this political and economic Brazilian goal may not arrive to fruition.
It is certainly possible Norway will entirely end its support for the Amazon Fund in the coming years if deforestation continues at too high a level. However, Temer leaves office in 2018 and the upcoming election seems hopeful for the Amazon’s future. Front runners in the 2018 presidential race are former president Lula da Silva and former Minister of Environment Marina Silva. Lula’s chances at the presidency have been cut short given his recent conviction for corruption, particularly if no successful appeal occurs. Marina Silva, born in the Amazon, ran against Dilma Rousseff in the 2011 elections, under the Green Party, and proved competitive, although she ultimately lost to Rousseff. Silva, identified by the UN as an advocate for the environment and credited with decreasing levels of deforestation, may be the candidate to reverse the deforestation trends of the past couple years. Norway has already shown support for Silva, when it awarded her the Sophie Prize, an environmental award, in 2009. There is uncertainty on the outcome of the 2018 election – but if Silva wins, the environment will likely benefit. Meanwhile, Temer has shown to focus his efforts on avoiding corruption charges and desperately trying to maintain political support, at the expense of the environment. Norway will not return support until tangible improvements occur in the Brazilian Amazon, and this is unlikely to occur until a new president is inaugurated.
Image from Wikipedia