On December 4th, in front of the Sheraton Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, instead of hotel guests and tourists, a different sight greeted the people. Indigenous leaders, fishermen and activists from 350.org called for an end to oil and gas extraction in the Amazon.

Inside the hotel, the Brazilian National Agency of Oil, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) were promoting a public session announcing tenders for oil and gas blocks available in the 2nd Permanent Offer Cycle, including areas in the Amazon, the incredibly biodiverse, carbon-locking forest known as the “lungs of the Earth”.

“In defense of the fishers’ territory”: much of the oil exploration in Brazil is offshore and may lead to disasters affecting marine life as well as the communities’ food security and livelihoods. Photo by Lucas Landau.

These auctions have been organized since 2019 by the Brazilian government to allow fossil fuel companies to exploit these areas for oil and gas.

Sixteen of the more than 200 blocks put on auction this Friday are located in the Amazon Basin. Eneva, a Brazillian company, has obtained the license to prospect and potentially explore three of these blocks. This means that the fossil fuel industry is one step closer to expanding its activities in the largest rainforest in the world.

This is very concerning for traditional communities and anybody who defends our climate, biodiversity and environmental justice. An unprecedented study by 350.org proves that oil and gas production in the Amazon would cause deforestation that impacts our global climate, affect biodiversity, infringe on Indigenous peoples’ rights, and erode Indigenous culture. 

Ninawá Huni Kui, a leader of the Huni Kui people in Acre, Brazil sings traditional songs and prays during the action in Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Lucas Landau.

“The Amazon represents life for Indigenous Peoples and the planet, but oil can bring about the death of animals, forests and people. We are united to fight and overcome this threat”, said Ninawá Huni Kui, president of the Federation of Huni Kui People from the State of Acre, at the demonstration in Rio.

These oil and gas blocks were also auctioned in nine other basins spread across Brazil, with the potential to directly impact terrestrial ecosystems and marine life. Fishermen from Rio de Janeiro, who participated in the action, spoke in defense of these at-risk territories.

“In the last few decades, we have seen firsthand the damage that oil exploration has brought to the environment, for women and for families in the Guanabara Bay, where we live. We have come to show our support for the fight to protect the Amazon and all of Brazil from the impacts of this industry,” said Daize Menezes de Souza, director of the fishers’ association Ahomar and coordinator of the National Articulation of Fisherwomen.

Protesters hold a banner against the oil and gas auctions, right in front of the Sheraton hotel, where the auction was happening.

Ilan Zugman, Director of 350.org in Latin America, emphasized that the populations most affected by the climate crisis, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, are those who have contributed the least to the warming of the planet.

“The companies participating in this auction and the ANP themselves are aggravating climate injustice, by putting traditional communities at risk and concentrating money in the hands of a few, since not even the economic gains from these exploitative activities will not benefit the residents of the region. The companies reap the profits, while the Amazonian communities live in fear of oil and gas leaks, environmental destruction and infringement of their rights”, he said.

This Friday’s demonstration was the first initiative of the Amazon Resists campaign, coordinated by 350.org and indigenous leaders, to amplify the voices of traditional communities who rise in defense of their lands and the global climate, in the face of the threats posed by the sectors of oil and gas in the Amazon.

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