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  1. ITV Report

Raging Amazon fires destroying the world's lungs stir bitter dispute over who is to blame

Fires are destroying huge swathes of the Amazon. Credit: AP

A wall of flames eats away at the Amazon rainforest, destroying the lungs of the world while Brazil's President claims they do not have enough firefighters to tackle this crisis.

The Brazilian government on Thursday denounced international critics who say President Jair Bolsonaro is not doing enough to curb massive deforestation.

The right-wing nationalist who only came into power at the start of the year, repeated on Thursday that the blame for the fires lies with environmental groups who are trying to make him look bad.

"I strongly suspect it's the environmental groups," he said.

Brazil's president blames for the fires lies with environmental groups. Credit: AP

When asked by a reporter what proof he had, he said: "For God's sake there is no proof, nobody admits 'I set fire to that'."

But even in his own country, there are many that don't believe him.

At a climate change conference in the north of Brazil, when the environment minister approached the stage to speak, he was heckled and drowned out by protesters.

60%
Of the Amazon rainforest is in Brazil.

The Amazon rainforest covers 5.5million square kilometers - more than 23 times the size of the UK.

It absorbs a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions and releases a fifth of our oxygen.

Smoke can be seen from Space over Brazil as the fires continue to rage. Credit: PA

But deforestation is surging - last month alone more than 2,000 square kilometres was lost.

Mr Bolsanaro's policy of encouraging farmers to plant more crops and keep more cattle rather than protecting the forest is widely criticised as why deforestation is accelerating.

It is thought that the fires may be being started to clear rainforest so that crops and livestock can be farmed on it instead.

Richard George, from Greenpeace UK said large international companies can't afford to do business with a country that is "putting the Amazon to the torch"

The devastation of the Amazon rainforest. Credit: AP

"He's playing to a very small home crowd but he's picking fights and this is a fight that he can't afford to win.

"Most of the international community is horrified by this and big companies like McDonald's and KFC, who buy commodities from Brazil, really have a choice, you know, they can't continue doing business with a country that is putting the Amazon to the torch."

Angry at the destruction of this precious resource Germany and Norway have withheld their Amazon protection fund of £70 million and wants other countries to follow their example.

This year, thousands of acres of the rainforest have burned, with a total of 74,000 blazes burning over the past couple of weeks.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, a federal agency monitoring deforestation and wildfires, said the country has seen a record number of wildfires this year.

Mr Bolsonaro has also indicated he may pull Brazil out of the Paris Climate Agreement on climate change, and could open the globally vital Amazon rainforest to development and agribusiness.

He attempted to justify it, stating: "If it was good, America (The US) would have not left (the Paris Agreement).

"If we are going to leave one day, it depends on who is on our side. I can take some fights if I have strong people on my side."

Ricardo Galvao, National Institute for Space Research, told ITV News if the government doesn’t act now, the forest could be irreparable in the future.

“It is clear there is an ideological position against science. If the government does not take very strong action curbing further progress of deforestation, we expect in 10-20 years we are going to reach a situation of no return,” he said.