Angela Merkel has backed Emmanuel Macron’s call to put the fires in the Amazon on the agenda at this weekend’s G7 summit, after the French president said the situation amounted to an international crisis.
Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for the German chancellor, told journalists in Berlin on Friday: “The extent of the fires in the Amazon area is shocking and threatening, not only for Brazil and the other affected countries, but also for the whole world.
“When the G7 comes together this weekend, then the chancellor is convinced that this acute emergency in the Amazon rainforest belongs on the agenda.”
Macron’s intervention had prompted a furious response from his Brazilian counterpart, Jair Bolsonaro. “I regret that President Macron seeks to take advantage of what is a domestic Brazilian issue and of other Amazonian countries for personal political gain,” the rightwing leader tweeted, targeting what he called Macron’s “sensationalist tone”.
In a second tweet, he said: “The French president’s suggestion that Amazonian matters be discussed at the G7 without the involvement of countries of the region recalls the colonialist mindset that is unacceptable in the 21st century.”
Later, Brazil’s foreign minister, Ernesto Araújo, weighed in with a thread on Twitter, condemning the “savage and unfair” international campaign against his nation. Araújo claimed the campaign was being waged “because President Bolsonaro’s government is rebuilding Brazil”.
He added: “The ‘environmental crisis’ appears to be the last weapon left in the arsenal of leftist lies to smother this fact.”
Earlier one of Bolsonaro’s top foreign advisers also tweeted a reprimand to foreign meddlers. “God does not like liars,” Filipe Martins wrote in a series of posts rebutting international criticism.
Bolsonaro’s politician son, Eduardo, continued the offensive, tweeting a YouTube video called “Macron is an idiot” to his 1.6 million followers.
But international concern continued to be expressed over the scale of the fires. The UN secretary general, António Guterres, said he was deeply concerned: “In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity.”
London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, tweeted that the fires were being “aided and abetted by the Brazilian government”. The burning of the rainforest was “an act of shocking environmental vandalism with global consequences”.
Celebrities including Madonna also weighed in on Thursday. “The Fires Are Raging and The Amazonia continues to burn,” she tweeted.
“It is devastating to see our world suffer,” the British Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton wrote on Instagram.
The footballer Cristiano Ronaldo tweeted about the urgency of the Amazon fires, saying it’s “our responsibility to help save the planet”.
Brazil has had more than 72,000 fires this year, an 84% increase on the same period in 2018, said the country’s National Institute for Space Research. More than half were in the Amazon.
There was a sharp rise in deforestation during July, which has been followed by extensive burning in August. Local newspapers say farmers in some regions are organising “fire days” to take advantage of weaker enforcement by the authorities.
Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno, on Thursday said he had spoken to Bolsonaro and would send three “brigades of specialists in forest fires and environmental research, who will help mitigate the tragedy in the Amazon rainforest”.