Twenty-six NGOs, have urged European Institutions to end European complicity in the fires raging in the Amazon by passing tough new laws guaranteeing that products sold in the EU are free from deforestation and human rights abuses. The NGOs, which include Fern, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe, Global Witness, also outline how EU Member States have helped fuel the current crisis through their extensive imports of soy and beef.
“We mustn’t forget that the Amazon fires were lit to produce more beef and soy and satisfy the demands of foreign importers. As Brazil’s second biggest trading partner, the EU must not escape the burden of responsibility for what is happening.
The EU is in a rare position to act for the Amazon by using its unique market leverage. It can do so by passing new laws that will require companies to clean up their supply chains as well as identify and prevent any harm done to the environment or human rights,” said Hannah Mowat, campaigns coordinator at forests and rights NGO, Fern.
Last July, the European Commission opened the door to regulating its imports of agricultural commodities. It remains unclear however when and if such measures will actually be proposed.
The open letter also calls for the immediate suspension of the ratification of the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement.
“With Bolsonaro sending so many signals of impunity that encourage environmental crimes, there is no way Brazil will be able to uphold the Paris Agreement.
The EU must follow suit the calls from France, Ireland or Luxembourg and formally suspend the ratification of the EU-Mercosur trade deal. Negotiations should be re-opened in order to include strong and binding safeguards that will ensure that forests are protected, and Indigenous and traditional communities’ rights respected.
Such negotiations must be conducted in a spirit of partnership, that includes a multi-stakeholder process where local civil society are listened to, since they are best placed to understand the problems and advise their governments.” Mowat concluded.
Note to editors:
- The letter was sent to the Presidents of the European Commission, Parliament and Council as well as to heads of states of the signatories of the Amsterdam Declaration.
- 400+ companies in the food and agriculture sector have made commitments to stop deforesting and respect human rights but it has become clear that these companies cannot achieve this goal on their own. Sustainability leaders are increasingly backing calls for a European regulation of agricultural imports. France, Belgium and the European Parliament have all called for regulatory measures.
On the 23rd of July, the European Commission issued a Communication on Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests. Within this Communication, the EU commits to: “assess(ing) additional demand-side regulatory measures to increase supply chain transparency and minimise the risk of deforestation and forest degradation associated with commodity imports in the EU”
- A recent poll showed that 87 per cent of Europeans support new laws to ensure that the food they eat and the products they buy don’t drive global deforestation.
- The EU is 97 per cent dependent on soya imports for its animal feed and exports to Europe are a billion Euro business for Brazil.
- In a briefing note on the cattle industry, Fern detailed some of the devastating impacts of cattle ranching in Mercosur countries: it is responsible for 80 per cent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, as well as forest loss in the Paraguayan part of the Gran Chaco, the second largest forested zone in South America. In 2018, 78.8 per cent of EU beef imports came from the Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay).