EU steps in to boost Amazon rainforest protection plan

FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows trees as the sun rises at the Amazon rainforest in Manaus

By Belén Carreño

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain (Reuters) - The European Union on Friday threw its weight behind a plan to protect the Amazon rainforest, pledging to coordinate financial contributions from EU members and making sure the money was spent as intended under its Global Gateway investment scheme.

Team Europe, which includes EU members states and institutions such as the European Investment Bank, will coordinate 260 million euros ($277 million) already pledged by Spain, Italy, Sweden, France, Germany and the Netherlands to curb deforestation in the Amazon.

On top of that, the EU will add an undisclosed amount to protect the forest from logging from the EU's Global Gateway scheme of investment in Latin America, where Amazon rainforest protection is one of the flagship projects.

Under the Global Gateway project, the EU pledged in July to invest 45 billion euros in Latin America by 2027 and the scheme will be discussed in more detail on Friday among EU and Latin American finance ministers in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

The ministers are looking to ensure the money is delivered and spent as intended, a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations said, asking not to be named.

In the past, the Commission has been criticised for pledging large amounts of investment to developing regions without any mechanisms to verify that the money was actually disbursed.

Now the Commission will take the lead in coordinating the flow of cash, integrating individual country donations into a donor platform launched by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on Friday on the sidelines of the ministers' meting.

More than half of global destruction of old-growth tropical rainforests has taken place in the Amazon and bordering forests since 2002. Rainforests, in particular the Amazon, absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide and are key in shaping the Earth's climate, making them vital to prevent climate change.

($1 = 0.9377 euros)

(Reporting by Belén Carreño at Santiago de Compostela; Editing by Jan Strupczewski and Mark Potter)