Amazon fires reflect global 'climate emergency', says Church leader

(Photo: Reuters)

The fires raging in parts of the Amazon rainforest are symptomatic of a "climate emergency which does not know international boundaries", the Church of England's environmental official has said.

The Bishop of Salisbury, Nick Holtam, who also acts as the Church's lead bishop for environmental affairs, said that the UK's politicians needed to be discussing ways to work together to resolve the crisis. 

"There is a climate emergency which does not know international boundaries. The Amazon is a global resource as well as a national one," he said. 

"In the last 36 hours I have been asked to sign a variety of climate related petitions and letters. People are concerned. So our politicians should be talking about it and finding ways to act collectively.

"The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. At the moment there are so many initiatives to plant trees to help carbon capture. It is appalling to see such large areas of rainforest burn.

"They destroy more than the trees. They destroy hope."

According to Brazil's National Institute for Space Research, there have been 40,000 fires across the Amazon so far this year - the fastest rate of burning since records began in 2013.

The fires have prompted international outcry, with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he is "deeply concerned". 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday: "In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity. The Amazon must be protected."

But there have also been domestic protests against President Jair Bolsonaro and his administration, who have been accused by environmental campaigners of escalating deforestation in the Amazon by siding with the mining and logging industry. 

In a televised address on Friday, Mr Bolsonaro announced that he was sending in the military to help tackle the blazes.  On Saturday, the deployment of some 44,000 troops began. 

"I've learned as a military man to love the Amazon forest and I want to help protect it," he said.

He added, "We need to bear in mind that more than 20 million Brazilians live in that region.  We need to give opportunity for development. It's not only about protection."