Elon Musk has met with Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro to discuss the protection of the Amazon rainforest and rural internet connectivity.
The SpaceX and Tesla chief posted on Twitter that he was “super excited” to be in the South American country and said environmental monitoring of the Amazon was on the agenda - posting a tree emoji.
The billionaire, who is currently in talks to buy social network Twitter for $44bn, said he was also there for the launch of Starlink, a space-based system to bring internet access to underserved areas of the world, that will help connect thousands of unconnected schools in rural areas.
The trip came as Mr Musk also strongly defended himself against accusations he sexually harassed a flight attendant on a 2016 private jet flight to London.
Fábio Faria, Brazilian Minister of Communications, welcomed Mr Musk and confirmed the subjects of the discussion but gave few other details adding only “let’s do this!!”
It remains unclear what Mr Musk’s discussions on the environmental monitoring of the Amazon with the Brazilian government will entail.
Mr Bolsonaro and Mr Musk also appeared in a video broadcast live on the president’s Facebook account in which they stood next to each other on stage answering questions from members of the audience.
“A lot can be done to improve quality of life through technology,” Mr Musk told the crowd, according to Associated Press.
The Amazon rainforest is one of the planet’s richest areas for biodiversity and is also the biggest in the world. Trees are crucial to slowing down climate change as they absorb carbon dioxide one of the greenhouse gases that is leading to the rapid rate of global heating.
Deforestation of the Amazon has boomed under Brazil’s right-wing president, who took office in 2019 having pledged to develop the Amazon, dismissing global concern about its destruction. Since then, Mr Bolsonaro’s government has boosted mining, cattle-ranching and logging in the rainforest.
At the end of last year, deforestation in the Amazon reached a 15-year-high after it jumped 22pc in a year, according to official data. Then in Janaury, new satellite data revealed that an estimated 166 square miles of forest was cleared in one month - more than five times the number of trees cut down as in the same period the year before.
The bumper deforestation month came after more than 100 nations - including Brazil - pledged to stop deforestation and begin restoring the world’s forests by the end of the decade, in an agreement that encompasses 85pc of the world’s forests.
Mr Musk meanwhile has been outspoken about the reality of climate change and the need to drastically cut emissions to avoid the worst impacts of global heating. He has called for a carbon tax, and has said cyptocurrency’s “promising future” cannot come at the expense of the environment.
Musk denounced as "utterly untrue" claims in a news report that he sexually harassed a flight attendant on a private jet in 2016.
Shares of the electric carmaker dropped more than 10pc on Friday amid concerns that the alleged sexual misconduct and Musk's political comments could threaten to damage Tesla's brand and sales.
Business Insider reported on Thursday that Musk's private company SpaceX paid $250,000 in 2018 to settle a sexual harassment claim from an unnamed private jet flight attendant who accused Musk of exposing himself to her.
The article quoted an anonymous person who said she was a friend of the flight attendant. The friend had provided a statement as part of the private settlement process, according to the article.
"I have a challenge to this liar who claims their friend saw me 'exposed' - describe just one thing, anything at all (scars, tattoos) that isn't known by the public. She won't be able to do so, because it never happened," Musk wrote on Twitter.