RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva met Saturday with his Colombian counterpart, Gustavo Petro, to build momentum for an upcoming regional summit on the Amazon rainforest and enhance efforts for its protection.
The meeting took place in Colombia's Leticia, a town in the Amazon's triple border region between Colombia, Brazil and Peru, where organized crime has recently increased its hold.
The meeting aimed to lay groundwork for the Amazon Summit that the Brazilian government is organizing in Belem next month. That summit will be attended by leaders of the countries that are party to the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.
Lula is pushing for a joint declaration from the summit, which would be presented at the United Nation's climate conference, known as COP28, in Dubai in November.
"We will have to demand together that rich countries fulfil their commitments," Lula said in Leticia, sitting next to Petro.
Petro also stressed the need for a common front to exert pressure on developed countries.
"We believed that progress was the destruction of trees. ... Today that is nothing other than the destruction of life," he said.
The Colombian leader said tackling the climate crisis will require spending trillions of dollars. This could be achieved by transforming the global debt system and "trading debt for climate action," he said.
The final document will comprise measures for the sustainable development of the Amazon, protecting the biome, and promoting social inclusion, science, technology and innovation while valuing Indigenous peoples and their knowledge, Brazil's presidential palace said in a statement.
"Joint action of the countries that share the Amazon biome is fundamental for facing the multiple challenges in the region," the statement said.
One challenge is the tightened grip of organized crime, particularly in tri-border regions like where Leticia is located. British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous activist Bruno Pereira were killed in the neighboring Javari valley region last year.
These areas have become violent hotspots, according to a report by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime released in June. It noted criminal groups are simultaneously engaged in cocaine trafficking, as well as natural resource exploitation.
Indigenous groups are disproportionately affected by the criminal nexus in the Amazon, the report added, pointing to forced displacements, mercury poisoning and other health-related impacts as well as increased exposure to violence.
In 2019, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Guyana and Suriname signed the Leticia Pact to strengthen coordinated actions for the preservation of the natural resources of the Amazon.
But the goals are vague and lack ways to measure progress, said Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, an umbrella organization of environmental groups.
Since taking office in January, Lula has strived to put environmental protection and respect for Indigenous peoples' rights at the heart of his third term. He successful pursued resumption of international donations for the Amazon Fund that combats deforestation, launched a military campaign to eject illegal miners from Yanomami territory, committed to ending all illegal deforestation by 2030 and restarted the demarcation of Indigenous areas.
Petro has also been vocal about the need to halt destruction in the Amazon. The Colombian leader has proposed the creation of multilateral 20-year financing fund to support farming communities contributing to deforestation. The idea is to compensate them for conservation and regenerative activities instead.
Historically, collaboration between Brazil and Colombia, which share a border longer than 1,500 kilometers, has been lacking, according to Wagner Ribeiro, a geographer and expert in environmental policy from the University of Sao Paulo.
"We hope that opportunities for academic cooperation will arise from the meeting, which will later generate public policies that promote environmental conservation," Ribeiro said.