EU must pressure Brazil on Amazon fires, Labour urges
Brendan Howlin, the leader of the party, said yesterday that the destruction of the Amazon would have a catastrophic effect on the environment.
“The potential loss of the Amazon rainforest would have serious consequences around the world, including for Europe, given that a fifth of all oxygen is generated by the Amazon and it keeps centuries’ worth of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere,” he said.
“I am calling on Leo Varadkar and EU leaders to ensure that the issue of the Amazon rainforest is dealt with at the next summit of EU heads of government as a matter of the utmost urgency, as part of Europe’s response to the global climate emergency.”
Mr Howlin said that the EU should use its trading power to influence Brazil. It is one of several South American countries, referred to as the Mercosur, which recently agreed a trade deal with the EU after two decades of negotiations which will result in both parties reducing the tariffs on a variety of goods, including food, car parts and chemicals.
He added: “The European Union has influence over Brazil, given the desire of South American countries to engage in greater trade with Europe. Now is the time for the EU to put down a strong marker that we will never reward Brazil through trade if the Brazilian government continues to allow the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.“
The remarks from Mr Howlin followed reports of a significant increase in the number of fires in the Amazon so far this year.
As the largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon is a vital resource for storing greenhouse gases, something which slows down the pace of global warming. For this reason, it is regarded as one of the most important ecosystems in the world. It is also home to about three million species of plants and animals, and one million indigenous people.
The Brazilian science ministry’s space research unit, INPE, said earlier this week that it had detected more than 72,000 fires since January 2019. This was nearly double the number of fires detected during the same period in 2018.
Nasa, the US space agency, said that that fires across the Amazon basin —including in Peru and Colombia —this year had been close to the average compared with the past 15 years. But it added that fires “appear to be above average” in Amazonas and Rondônia, two states in Brazil.
Environmental groups blamed Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s right-wing president, for allowing more fires. Wildfires are common in the dry season, but are also deliberately set by farmers illegally deforesting land for cattle ranching. INPE has blamed human activity for the high number of fires it reported.
Mr Bolsonaro said the number of fires was due to the time of the year when farmers use fire to clear land. He recently fired the director of INPE after the agency published statistics showing increased deforestation in Brazil, claiming the figures were inaccurate.
The Department of Climate Action said in a statement: “TheAmazon rainforest is a significant carbon sink for the planet. All countries including Brazil must live up to their commitments under the Paris Agreement. This issue has been discussed and will be discussed again at EU level. Compliance with Paris is a key requirement of the Mercosur trade agreement.”