A letter from 34 Brazilian environmental organizations addressed to the European Union called for more effective legislation banning imports from countries involved in deforestation. On Thursday EU ministers are scheduled to meet in Brussels to discuss a proposal banning the purchase of products that fuel deforestation, such as soy, beef, palm oil, cocoa, and coffee.
The environmental groups say that the draft proposal is necessary and positive, but needs improvements to effectively combat deforestation in exporting countries such as Brazil, home to 60% of the Amazon rainforest and leading exporter of commodities.
Deforestation and conversion of natural ecosystems must be eradicated if humanity is to stand a chance of stabilizing global warming, said the letter, signed by groups including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Brazil office, the Climate Observatory and The Nature Conservancy.
The groups argue the draft bill, presented in November 2021, defines forests too narrowly. It excludes the majority of several key ecosystems in Brazil, including the Pantanal wetlands, the Cerrado savannah and the Pampa lowlands, they said.
They also urged EU officials to add more products to the controlled list, such as cotton, corn and canned meat, and to ensure due diligence measures apply to entire farms, not just part of them.
Another point called for firm assurances referred to human rights, particularly to ensure that agribusiness does not push indigenous peoples from their lands.
The EU is among the first to draft such legislation since 141 countries signed the so-called Glasgow Declaration, a pledge to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.
Brazil was among the signatories to the voluntary pledge, launched at the UN climate summit in November 2021. But deforestation has surged in the country in recent years, notably under President Jair Bolsonaro.
Furthermore the Bolsonaro administration recently proposed lifting a ban on mining in indigenous territories in the Amazon to offset potential fertilizer shortages because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
”Minerals extraction in indigenous territories (something vehemently opposed by those local communities and environmentalists), was necessary to avoid dependence on imported products, particularly with the Russia/Ukraine war and the shortage of potassium at sky rocket prices, argued Bolsonaro.
Agriculture powerhouse Brazil imports more than 80% of the fertilizers it uses, and when it comes to those containing potassium, that figure rises to 96%, according to the agriculture ministry. Close to 20% of fertilizers come from Russia.
Our food security and agribusiness require Executive and Legislative measures so that we don't depend externally on something we have in abundance,” said Bolsonaro. Extraction of minerals in indigenous territories in the Amazon, is currently banned by law.