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What can we do about the Amazon?

February 5, 2021 8:00 PM
By Keith Melton

Soy, Brazil, the EU & the Amazon

From the ChairThe European Union is taking a tough line with Brazil about the deforestation of the Amazon. European Parliament deputy Pascal Canfin, who is president of the European Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety says, "Brazil can't figure on the international scene as the country that doesn't want to cooperate. It would be a terrible economic decision".

Pascal Canfin (Pascal Canfin)Canfin is a member of Republique En Marche, President Macron's party in France. Only last year Macron called for a big increase in the amount of land devoted to growing Soy, as a means of providing and alternative to buying soy from Brazil. The EU imports around 14 million tons of the product from Brazil. Although it is estimated that only 5% of Brazilian soy is grown in areas which have contributed to deforestation in the Amazon, public pressure is exceptionally strong that the Amazon must be protected from the deliberately set fires attributed to farming in the country.

Brazil`s President Jair Bolsonaro claims that the EU is challenging the country`s sovereignty on the issue and it is all a ploy towards protectionism by the European bloc. Pascal Canfin insists that there is no protectionist motivation by the European Union on the plan to restrict Brazilian soy.

"The goal is not to stop importing Brazilian soybeans, but rather Brazilian soybeans that are unable to prove that they do not contribute to deforestation. We are not against Brazilian soy itself, but against a production method that we no longer want to endorse," he said.

Following Joe Biden`s inauguration as the 46th President of the US, it now looks as though Bolsonaro has become isolated and may well have to start backing down from his apparent hard line on Brazilian sovereignty. Biden has clearly signalled his administration`s environmental credentials by signing back up to the Paris Accord

Truth & Lies - Brazil´s VP Mourão Advocates New Development Model for Amazon Region

VP Mourao BrazilThe Rio Times of February 4th reports that Vice President Mourao of Brazil who is also the President of the Amazon Council, is calling for more "Development" in the Amazon Region. In that article he is reported to have announced the results of the council's efforts last year…

"What were the preliminary results? First, a slowdown in deforestation, albeit not enough to fully celebrate yet. But from June last year until December 31st, in these seven months, we managed to reduce deforestation by 17%, when compared to the same period in 2019", he said.

The Amazon Council has the task of coordinating federal initiatives in the Amazon region, including cooperation with states, municipalities and civil society.

The trouble is that his claims of a slowdown in deforestation seem to be far from the truth - or, at the very least a significant mis-representation of statistics to disguise the truth! Year on year the deforestation figure has gone UP by nearly 10% on 2019 and by around 47% as set against 2018. And if you compare the 2020 figures against the target set in legislation against which the Government`s actions should be measured, the figure is even more concerning.

The target established in the "Plano para Controle do Desmatamento Ilegal e Recuperação da Vegetação Nativa" was to reduce deforestation to no more than 3,925 km2 by 2020. The ACTUAL figure is more like 11,088 km2 - an uplift of 182% on the target. (According to: Portal TerraBrasilis (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE), 2020); http://terrabrasilis.dpi.inpe.br)

Brazilians want their Amazon protected

Bolsonaro`s Government is not only isolated now, it may also be running into problems at home. More than three-quarters of Brazilians think Amazon rainforest fires have hurt the country's image - and that environmental protection should become a priority for the country, even at an economic cost, a new survey has found.

According to the Rio times today (5th February 2021), the study on climate change views, organized by Brazil's Institute of Technology and Society and the U.S.-based Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, found younger Brazilians in particular see global warming as a major threat to their lives now, as well as in the future.

More than 90% of those questioned said worsening fires in the Amazon were hurting Brazil's quality of life and were a threat to the planet.

More than eight in 10 Brazilians said the fires had hurt the nation's international image, and 78% thought they could hurt trade between the South American giant and other countries.

It remains to be seen whether these views of younger Brazilians will actually be felt at the ballot box. The next presidential election is due for 2022 so the next president would take over the reins in 2023. The question for European politicians is whether taking a stronger line on Bolsonaro will help or hinder the actual safety of the Amazon from ruinous exploitation.

Keith Melton (Keith Melton)As far as the Green Liberal Democrats are concerned, we take the view that the lies of the Brazilian Government should be exposed in the same way the lies of Trump and Johnson should be exposed. We will certainly be taking every opportunity during this important year of the next Climate Change Summit in Glasgow to highlight the huge role the Amazon has for cooling the world, sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere and locking it into the trees.

The problem with the deforestation is twofold. Killing the trees kills their ability to soak up carbon dioxide - but it also releases tons and tons of the stuff which had been locked into the trees themselves for millenia.

Keith Melton

Chair Green Liberal Democrats

Keith has been married to his Brazilian wife, Fatima, since 2011 and they have a home just outside Rio de Janeiro. Separated by the Coronavirus lockdown from March to November 2020, they are now living mostly in the UK. Since 2007, Keith has planted over 300 trees on a couple of small fields in Nottinghamshire - "To encourage biodiversity in the context of GLD`s "Doubling Nature" goal and trying to offset a lifetime`s output of CO2"