Amazon Brexit boost could spell climate catastrophe
Environmental activists fear the UK’s commitment to deforestation could be sacrificed on the altar of trade as the government courted one of the world’s biggest eco-villains.
Despite pledges from the world’s richest countries to halt and reverse biodiversity loss as part of a “pact for nature” agreed by the G7 over the weekend, activists denounced the lack of details of the deal and are still not convinced of the strength of the UK’s engagement when faced with economic pressures.
A The memorandum of understanding announced earlier this year to strengthen ‘bilateral trade and economic relations’ with Brazil could be worth around £ 6 billion a year, which UK officials have called a ‘boost to Amazon Brexit’ .
however, Brazil’s environmental policies have been strongly and internationally condemned since President Jair Bolsonaro took office two years ago, taking with him a surge in deforestation that peaked 12 years last year.
Now climate activists fear that with trade talks on the table, the UK is sweeping deforestation issues under the rug.
Alison Kirkman of Greenpeace said: “The Brazilian congress is currently debating a bill that, if passed, would legalize the invasion of large tracts of public land until 2014, as well as any deforestation within them.
“This would not only give forest criminals and land grabbers a free pass for past illegal activities, but a license to continue cutting down forests and burning land for years to come. While the UK government is aware of what is going on, it obviously wants to maintain relations with Brazil after Brexit to allow trade negotiations.
Although the Conservatives loudly defended their new environmental bill, which includes measures to stop the importation of goods from areas of illegally deforested land, the legislation was delayed for a third time in January and it is now unlikely to be adopted before the fall.
For environmental activists, the delay simply gives countries like Brazil more time to change the limits of their own environmental laws on what is legal and what is illegal.
“The proposed deforestation legislation is far from strong enough and there are gaps,” said Alison.
“The biggest weakness of the bill in its current form is that it only tackles illegal deforestation entering the UK supply chain – something that can be easily undermined by governments like that of President Bolsonaro in Brazil by making deforestation more legal. “
According to activists, around 80% of global deforestation is the result of agricultural production, and animal agriculture, including animal husbandry and feed, is the main driver and responsible for 60% of direct global emissions from greenhouse gases (GHG).
Figures like these have sparked a new approach by Greenpeace UK in its fight to save the planet, pushing activists away from the more emotional palm oil issue to focus on meat production.
“Deforestation and fires in Brazil made international headlines in 2019, were even worse in 2020, and last month the Amazon saw its largest monthly deforestation on record with an area the size of the country. ‘Isle of Man destroyed,’ says Alison. “Much of the destruction in Brazil in the Amazon and other regions such as the Cerrado, Gran Chaco and Pantanal wetlands is occurring to make way for the expansion of the industrial meat industry, the United Kingdom imports its products in enormous quantities. “
Although Greenpeace UK is focusing more on deforestation for meat production, campaigners say it should not be up to individuals to change their eating habits, but rather the system needs to change.
“Businesses and governments understand all too well that the key issue is land use,” says Alison, a point with which other environmental activists unanimously agree.
For Jeff Conant of Friends of the Earth US, Western governments must take bigger steps, passing regulations to end “imported deforestation”.
Having worked on the environmental impact of palm oil for the past ten years, he says the widespread publicity gained – in large part thanks to the devastating effect the industry has had on the natural habitat of the wildlife such as the orangutan – has led both businesses and governments. paying increased attention to the need to clean up the industry.
One such initiative by Sime Darby Plantation, the world’s largest supplier of certified palm oil, has even been hinted at as a potential weapon to tackle the larger problem of global deforestation – a traceability tool called Crosscheck: 2 which allows the public to trace the origins of palm oil down to the factory level, using the company’s database and information from NGOs on the ground and satellite imagery.
Since its inception in 2019, more than 60 suppliers have been identified as “high risk” with a number suspended by the company.
WWF-Malaysia conservation director Dr Henry Chan, who has worked on the ground with the palm oil giant for more than two years, described Crosscheck: 2 as “a crucial step in the fight against change. climate, ”adding,“ We want to make sure that what Sime Darby is doing is something that can be replicated.
Jeff Conant of Friends of the Earth agreed, saying such tools were a step in the right direction, “the sun being the best disinfectant” when it comes to holding large Amazon deforesters accountable.
“The soybean, livestock, paper and pulp industries have yet to achieve the level of traceability that now exists in palm oil supply chains, although even palm oil has still a long way to go. Once such systems are in place, then we need governments to intervene – along with civil society – to use these tools to strengthen the transparency-based accountability that we gain in these supply chains.
“The demand has become clear. In the Brazilian Amazon, the big livestock companies – JBS, Minerva and Marfrig – offer no traceability, and, of course, in Brazil there is no incentive to do so as the government is determined to destroy the Amazonia.