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Congressman Sires Remarks at Subcommittee Hearing on the Fires in the Brazilian Amazon

Sep 10, 2019
Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) –Congressman Sires, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade, delivered today the following opening remarks at the subcommittee hearing on the fires in the Brazilian Amazon:

“I convened this hearing because protecting the Amazon is vital for the health of our planet. The Amazon Rainforest is the most biodiverse region in the world. It also contains approximately one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply. The water released by the Amazon’s plants and rivers impacts climate trends throughout South America and can affect precipitation and the severity of droughts. The Amazon also stores billions of tons of carbon dioxide, a portion of which enters the atmosphere when deforestation occurs, potentially accelerating global climate change.

“For these reasons and many more, the fires currently burning in the rainforest are an issue that should concern us all. While the fires have helped draw attention to what’s happening in the Amazon, we know that they are just one symptom of the much bigger problem of deforestation. Scientists generally agree that the Amazon could reach a tipping point if current deforestation trends continue. This scenario would jeopardize the many benefits the Amazon provides to our climate and would threaten the millions of plant and animal species the rainforest ecosystem supports.

“The goal of this hearing is to understand the causes and scope of the problem and explore solutions to preserve the Amazon. Today, we will hear expert analysis of Brazil’s environmental protection policies, challenges to their implementation, and recommendations about what more needs to be done.

“I deeply value our relationship with Brazil and appreciate the Brazilian government’s historical commitment to balancing its promotion of economic development with efforts to preserve the environment. In looking for a path to success, we need not look further than Brazil. From 2005 to 2014, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon declined by over 70%. During that same period, the Brazilian economy grew, and nearly 30 million people were lifted out of poverty.

“In other words, well-regulated economic development efforts have gone hand in hand with successful environmental protection programs in the past. There is no reason why this cannot be achieved again.

“I believe the United States has a role to play in supporting Brazil on this issue and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work together in fulfilling our global leadership role. We must also support the indigenous communities that live in the Amazon whose right to live on their ancestral lands for generations to come depends on the health of the rainforest. Preserving the Amazon isn’t just the right thing to do. This is an issue that directly affects our own constituents because the health of the Amazon Rainforest ultimately impacts the water we drink and the air we breathe.

“Unfortunately, the United States cannot be a leader on the environment if we do not return to a policy of acknowledging the scientific reality of global climate change. I strongly criticized the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement not only because it ignored overwhelming scientific evidence, but also because it has undermined our credibility on the world stage and hurt our national security interests.

“This should not be a partisan issue. If we do not take the threat of climate change seriously, our children and grandchildren will never forgive us for failing to meet the moral demands of our time. Today, I look forward to a bipartisan discussion about how the United States Congress can advocate the necessary policies to combat climate change and work with the Brazilian government to protect the Amazon.”