Bernard Arnault, Europe’s richest man, has announced his LVMH group will contribute $11 million to help fight the wildfires currently ravaging the Amazon rainforest.
The directors of the luxury group, which owns brands like Louis Vuitton and Moet & Chandon champagne, announced on August 26 they would join the G7’s initiative to protect the Amazon rainforest in a “collective effort” to protect this “world heritage treasure.”
As the Amazon burns, satellite data shows a soccer pitch size of forest is lost to fire every minute. The forest is home to three million species of plants and animals and one million indigenous people. The Amazon is often referred to as the “lungs of the world” for its absorption of carbon dioxide and production of oxygen.
The LVMH group cited France’s “honor” of sharing responsibility for this immense rainforest, which spreads across the borders of Brazil, Peru and several other South American nations.
Yann Arthus-Bertrand, a director at LVMH, said: “Protecting the environment is not just about words and speeches or signing declarations of principle, it also requires taking concrete collective actions when dangers arise in order to provide resources for local specialists and work together to save our planet.”
However, Brazil’s populist President Jair Bolsonaro has batted away calls from the global community to step up his country’s firefighting efforts.
Following French President Emmanuel Macron’s pledge of $22m aid from G7 countries to help tackle fires in the Amazon rainforest, President Bolsonaro rejected the aid and accused France of treating Brazil like a “colony”.
Mr Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, told the Globo newswebsite: “Thanks, but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe.”
Lorenzoni pointed the finger at France and the Notre-Dame cathedral fire in Paris this April: “Macron cannot even avoid a predictable fire in a church that is part of the world’s heritage, and he wants to give us lessons for our country?”
The $11 million donation to the firefighting efforts in the Amazon follows the Arnault family’s pledge of $222 million for the restoration of Notre-Dame cathedral.
However, the donation prompted questions from charities and politicians whether the move motivated by tax breaks, and criticism following delays in the money being transferred to the reconstruction fund.
Arnault was forced to tell shareholders that his family holding company was not yet eligible for tax breaks on charitable donations describing it as, “an empty controversy,” and “pretty dismaying to see that in France you are criticized even for doing something for the general interest.”