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Challenges and Compromises at the Amazon Summit

Leaders from eight South American countries attended a two-day summit centred on the Amazon in Belem, Brazil, from August 8th to 9th. The Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) is an intergovernmental organisation comprising the eight nations home to the rainforest: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.  

The Belem declaration was duly signed by the eight countries with the aim of preventing the Amazon from reaching “the point of no return.” Member-states of the ACTO agreed to a list of unified environmental policies and measures to strengthen regional cooperation on Tuesday but failed to reach a consensus on a common goal for ending deforestation.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose global image depends on bettering Brazil's environmental position, had been advocating for a unified regional effort to adopt a shared policy of halting deforestation by 2030, a pledge that other members failed to agree upon. Out of the Amazon nations, Bolivia and Venezuela are the only countries that did not join the 2021 COP26 agreement. That agreement included over 100 countries committed to working together to stop deforestation by 2030. Another major point of contention among the nations was oil. Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s pledge to halt new oil exploration in the Amazon was not reaffirmed by the other countries either.

The inability of the eight Amazon nations to reach a consensus on the safeguarding of their forests highlights the broader challenges faced globally in trying to create an agreement to tackle climate change. "The planet is melting, we are breaking temperature records every day. It is not possible that, in a scenario like this, eight Amazonian countries are unable to put in a statement - in large letters - that deforestation needs to be zero," said Marcio Astrini of the environmental lobby group Climate Observatory. Aside from deforestation, the summit did not set a deadline for ending illegal gold mining, but leaders agreed to work together to combat cross-border environmental crime more effectively.


The eight-nation group, formed in 1995 by the South American nations that share the Amazon rainforest, is holding its first summit in 14 years. Despite the disagreements, the summit has certainly empowered the Amazonian countries to speak up in the fight against climate change and is seen as a stepping stone towards the 2025 UN Climate Change conference, which is also scheduled to take place in Belém.

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