Lula says 'world must help' Brazil save the Amazon

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during a breakfast with foreign correspondents at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia on 2 August, 2023AFP

Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Wednesday the "world must help" Brazil protect the Amazon, ahead of a summit next week on the world's biggest rainforest, a key buffer against climate change.

"We know we have a responsibility to convince the world that investing is cheap if it's a matter of saving the rainforest," the veteran leftist told a breakfast meeting with AFP and other international media.

"The world needs to help us preserve and develop the Amazon," he said, in response to a question on how to balance the need for economic development in the Amazon region with protecting the forest.

Lula and leaders of other countries with territory in the sprawling Amazon are set to meet next week in the Brazilian city of Belem on developing policies to protect the rainforest, which is being badly damaged by deforestation.

It will be the first meeting of the eight-member Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization since 2009.

Deforestation in Brazil's 60 per cent share of the Amazon fell by 33.6 percent year-on-year from January to June, the first six months of Lula's term, according to official figures.

The destruction of the rainforest had surged under his far-right predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2022), who presided over an increase of more than 75 percent in annual deforestation versus the previous decade.

Lula said he planned to work with other Amazon basin leaders to "share research on the region's biodiversity" and seek ways to enable people there to "work without destroying" the fragile ecosystem.

Lula, 77, who previously led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, also reiterated his desire to help forge a peace deal for Ukraine.

Both Russia and Ukraine "are in the 'I'm going to win' stage. Meanwhile, people are dying," he said.

He also spoke in favor of expanding the BRICS group of emerging economies, formed by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

He said the group should discuss inviting new members at its upcoming summit in South Africa later this month, suggesting Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Argentina as possibilities.