Speech by President Donald Tusk at the meeting on the action for the Amazon

Burning forests are a tragedy no matter where they happen and no matter their scale. A tree needs many years to grow, but only few minutes to burn. We seem to know this, but we needed a shock, the shock of the Amazon rain forest fires to awaken ourselves from our lethargy. Europe is deeply moved by the magnitude of this calamity and its global and long-term consequences. We do not want to lecture anyone, we have no right to do so, as our own history is to a large extent a history of deforestation for land use and industry. But this is why we feel even more co-responsible for saving forests – on our continent and all around the world. We want to help everyone who is ready to save forests, because those who save forests save humankind. Today even the children have understood better than the adults that our planet without forests will become a desert planet, and that the burning forests are not only a matter for environmental activists, but they have become an issue evoking emotions of millions of ordinary Europeans.

That is why I am here as a representative of the European Union to thank all the initiators of the Alliance for rainforest, in particular for the region of Amazonia. To thank for stepping up the fight in defence of your forests. Because these are your forests, which doesn’t release anybody from the obligation to help you. And Europe wants to help. Some EU member states have already submitted their plans. Allow me to share with you the information concerning the intentions of the European Union and its institutions.

Ongoing and planned EU development programmes related to forests and land use in the Amazon basin amount to more than 190 million euros. In addition, the EU will continue providing financial support for disaster preparedness to several Amazon countries, including through an additional 6.5 million euros in 2020.

The EU stands ready to deploy missions under the Union Civil Protection Mechanism that can provide training to the emergency services in an affected country. Upon the request by the Bolivian government, for example, firefighting experts have recently been deployed to Bolivia. Moreover, the Copernicus satellite emergency system can provide maps of specific affected sites. It was activated in August to help respond to this year’s terrible fires. And this is just the beginning of our engagement, I can promise you that.