Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has backtracked on his claim that NGOs were starting fires in the Amazon to make him look bad.
It came after Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) said there had been an 84% rise in forest fires in the South American country this year.
As the news gained momentum around the world, President Bolsonaro suggested that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) could be setting the fires to “draw attention against me; against the Government of Brazil.”
"This is the war we are facing," he said.
However, during a live broadcast on Facebook today, he said he was only airing his suspicions when he made the claim.
He said the Government was investigating the fires but warned that Brazil lacks the resources to fight them.
With news of raging fires continuing to burn Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, we’re here with a message from “The Amazon.”#NatureIsSpeaking so you’ll never again underestimate the power of a standing forest. pic.twitter.com/LJMqR43C50
— Conservation Intl (@ConservationOrg) August 22, 2019
President Bolsonaro has been heavily criticised over his environmental policies since taking office in January.
Earlier this year, INPE warned that the rainforest had endured 88% more deforestation in June than it did in the same month last year.
President Bolsonaro responded by sacking the head of the agency.
#AmazonFire: Devastating loss in the #AmazonForest of #Brazil Brazil and #Bolivia, with over 4.5 million acres destroyed. We can't stop this fire, only governments can. But we CAN stop them from happening again, with your help: https://t.co/JtyI1vsRi1 pic.twitter.com/tOp5WST086
— Amazon Conservation (@ACA_DC) August 21, 2019
Conservationists have warned that the Bolsonaro administration’s attacks on environmental groups and plans for development on protected lands have emboldened farmers to clear more forest than ever before.
Earlier the country’s Environment Minister Ricardo Salles was booed at a climate conference in the city of Salvador.
Earlier this year, Minister Salles tried to conceal the event in the northern state of Bahia and, when he took to the stage yesterday, he was greeted by protesters holding placards with the words “stop ecocide” and “the Amazon is burning.”
It's very telling where humanity stands on conservation and biodiversity. When Notre Dame burned it was all hands on deck. When the Amazon and the Arctic burn, the only wildlife you hear in the media is crickets. #AmazonRainforest pic.twitter.com/44J9PaMx09
— Rewilding Institute (@Rewilding) August 21, 2019
Brazil is home to more than half of the Amazon Rainforest – which creates 20% of the oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere and is often referred to as the lungs of the world.
Earlier this month, NASA released satellite images showing massive fires burning across four Brazilian states – Rondônia, Amazonas, Pará, and Mato Grosso.
Despite the huge increases in Brazil, it said that, as of August 16th, total fire activity across the Amazon basin was slightly below average this year.