President Jair Bolsonaro said Thursday Germany has "a lot to learn" from Brazil when it comes to the environment, hitting back at criticism over deforestation in the Amazon.
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Bolsonaro made the remarks in Japan on the eve of the G20 summit, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday she would seek "straight talk" with the Brazilian leader over destruction of the rainforest.
"Brazil can be an example for Germany even in the environment," Bolsonaro told reporters shortly after arriving in Osaka. "Their industry continues to be fossil, largely coal, and ours no, so they have a lot to learn from us."
Global tensions are growing over the Amazon as illegal loggers, clandestine miners and aggressive farming businesses appear to have found their champion in far-right Bolsonaro, an unabashed climate change skeptic.
The rate of deforestation in the Amazon, which slowed dramatically from 2004 to 2012, surged again in January, the month Bolsonaro took power, according to conservation group Imazon.
Hundreds of activist groups earlier this month urged the European Union to immediately halt negotiations for a trade deal with Mercosur countries over Brazil's alleged harm of its indigenous people and rainforests.
The appeal from more than 340 groups could further complicate the EU's bid to conclude 20 years of talks for a free trade agreement with Brazil and its Mercosur partners Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
In response to a question in parliament Wednesday over deforestation in Brazil, Merkel said she would "take the opportunity at the G20 summit for straight talk because I find what's happening at the moment in Brazil dramatic."
But she said she would not seek to put the trade talks on hold over the deforestation.
"I think that not concluding the Mercosur deal would not have led to one hectare less of deforestation in Brazil. On the contrary," she said.
"That's why I think that not concluding the deal is not the answer to what's happening."