Trees are nature’s home-made remedy to absorb CO2 from the air. Forests, and the Amazon Forest particularly so, are a vital buffer against global warming.
The Amazon also holds 15% of the world’s biodiversity and helps regulate rainfall at local and global levels. Spanning across several countries, at least two thirds of the Amazon Rainforest lies within the borders of Brazil.
Today, that means that one of the most important ecosystems worldwide lies in the unsettling hands of Brazil's climate change denying president Jair Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro came to power with the support of the country’s influential agricultural, mining and logging lobbies, to whom he promised to exploit the Amazon for economic benefits.
The large fires across the Amazon Rainforest were the tipping point that finally sparked an international outcry. And while he finally did send help to stop the fires in the Amazon, Bolsonaro clings on to his view: Brazil’s forests are Brazil’s economic engine which he intends to exploit.
Bolsonaro, Macron and the Mercosur Trade Agreement
Bolsonaro has rejected any foreign support for environmental protection from the G7 group or the international community as a whole.
Now, the European Union, and French President Emmanuel Macron particularly so, are threatening not to sign the so-called Mercosur Trade Agreement.
This agreement between the EU and six Latin American countries, including Brazil, would lower export tariffs of beef, soy and wood.
Should we cancel the EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement?
“The agreement took 20 years to negotiate,” says Elvire Fabry, Senior Research Fellow for European Trade Policy at Jacques Delors Institute in Paris.
“For now it’s just a political agreement, it still needs to be ratified,” a process which could take many years. It still needs to go through the national parliaments of all member countries of both blocs, as well as through the European Parliament and the EU Council.
The pressure on Bolsonaro is big from all Mercosur members not to let this agreement fail, says Fabry. As their biggest trading partner, the European Union is a key export market for the Mercosur bloc.
In Fabry's eyes, the agreement is also a unique tool in the hands of the European community to try to influence Bolsonaro’s government not to undo Brazil’s otherwise historically intricate environmental policies.
It’s this economic pressure, too, which deterred Bolsonaro’s government from distancing Brazil entirely from the Paris Agreement, says Fabry.
While environmental groups have called for the agreement not to be signed, Fabry believes we need to be cautious.
“This is a unique tool, almost a weapon, to try and find a way to force Brazil’s government to protect the environment”. Turning away from the agreement altogether, she thinks, would take away that advantage.
Who protects the world’s forests?
But even if the trade agreement wasn’t signed; this wouldn’t solve a larger and more nuanced problem: how can we couple economic development with environmental protection?
There is a fundamental problem in how the world produces food. Farmers around the world are seeing how their land is reaching an ecological limit. Decades of farming and timber production have degraded large parts of Brazil’s soils.
It’s those same pressures that are now endangering the Amazon Forest as farmers look for ways to expand the very lands they depend on, sometimes by setting intentional fires, even on protected land. As global warming reaches increasingly dangerous levels, a structural change will need to come along, worldwide.
But with Bolsonaro rejecting all foreign funds to help protect the Amazon forest and impeding the work of environmentalists at home - who will take responsibility for protecting the world's most important buffers against global warming?
This blogpost is based on a documentary on Ecosia’s YouTube channel. Watch our videos and don’t forget to subscribe to our channel to receive notifications of Ecosia’s newest videos.