November 28, 2018 / 4:55 PM / 12 days ago

Brazil nixes plans to host UN climate conference

SAO PAULO/RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Brazil’s government has backed out of its offer to host the United Nations climate conference next year due to budget constraints and a presidential transition, Brazil’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

The conference is slated to be held in November next year. Last month, the Foreign Ministry announced Brazil’s offer to host the event in a press release, saying the meeting would work out final details of the Paris climate agreement and for signatory countries to fully implement its demands by 2020.

Hosting the event would have confirmed Brazil’s “role as a world leader on sustainable development issues, especially in relation to climate change.”

But in its emailed statement on Wednesday, the ministry said that after it carried out a detailed analysis that focused “on the financial needs associated with the event,” it was decided that the cost would be too much for the country to bear.

Brazil, which has 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest within its borders, a biome scientists consider one of nature’s best defenses against global warming as it acts as a giant carbon sink, has made significant strides in the past 15 years to curtail destruction of the jungle.

However, Brazil’s government reported last week that annual deforestation levels had hit their highest level in a decade.

Critics said the decision to not host the climate conference was related to the election in late October of right-wing President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who will take office on Jan. 1.

“The reversal to host the meeting is likely because of the opposition of the incoming government, which has already declared war on sustainable development on multiple occasions,” the environmental group Observatorio da Clima said in a release on its website. “It’s not the first and will not be the last awful news from Jair Bolsonaro on this theme.”

Aides to Bolsonaro did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Bolsonaro has antagonized environmentalists by threatening to pull Brazil out of the Paris climate accord, although he also said late in October that he was not set on such a move if elected.

Bolsonaro, who has called conservation efforts a threat to Brazilian sovereignty, had also sought to combine the environmental and agricultural ministries but later retreated from that proposal as well. (Reporting by Brad Brooks and Alexandra Alper Editing by Phil Berlowitz )

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