(Adds State Department comment; adds WASHINGTON to dateline)
BRASILIA/WASHINGTON, July 30 (Reuters) - Brazilian state governors met with U.S. climate envoy John Kerry on Friday, sidestepping their country's president, Jair Bolsonaro, in the first of several meetings with foreign powers to request funding for conservation projects aimed at combating climate change.
Bolsonaro has rolled back environmental enforcement and called for construction on protected areas since taking office in 2019, contributing to a surge in deforestation and wildfires in the Amazon rainforest and other biomes seen as critical to curbing climate change.
Seven state leaders from the Governors for Climate alliance presented a list of projects to Kerry in the virtual meeting, according to statements from governors following the meeting.
Kerry discussed how the U.S. can support Brazil's efforts to fight illegal deforestation, its programs to mitigate climate change and its goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, a State Department spokesperson said.
The meeting comes after at least 23 state governors in the alliance sent a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden in April signaling a desire to cooperate on sustainability initiatives in light of the "climate emergency."
The projects could be executed in two to six years and create more than 150,000 green jobs, although the total investment required has yet to be determined, the Espirito Santo state government said in a statement. The projects are located across Brazil and not confined to the Amazon region.
Flavio Dino, the left-wing governor of Maranhao who represented the Amazon states in the meeting, told Reuters that he had requested support for the region's Green Recovery Plan, unveiled earlier this month. That plan seeks to spend 1.5 billion reais ($287.75 million) to curb destruction and promote sustainable development.
"Of course, the role of the states increases if the federal government doesn't do its job," Dino said. "Brazil being in the supposed position of environmental villain, or a place open to environmental crime, isn't good for anyone."
Bolsonaro's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dino said that Kerry was friendly throughout, even when he expressed concerns about the continued rise in deforestation in 2021.
Espirito Santo Governor Renato Casagrande said in an online broadcast following the meeting with Kerry that the governors would next hold technical-level meetings with Kerry's team on possible cooperation.
Governors for Climate is also seeking to meet with China, the European Union and other international organizations, according to the Espirito Santo government. ($1 = 5.2128 reais)
(Reporting by Jake Spring; Additional reporting by Eduardo Simoes in Sao Paulo and Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Leslie Adler)