Letter from 34 environmental groups demands European Union pass aggressive laws to fight deforestation in exporting countries such as Brazil, home to 60% of Amazon rainforest.

Deforestation has surged in Brazil in recent years, notably under President Jair Bolsonaro.
Deforestation has surged in Brazil in recent years, notably under President Jair Bolsonaro. (AP Archive)

Brazilian environmental groups have urged the European Union to pass aggressive legislation banning all imports linked to deforestation, criticising "gaps" in a draft bill.

The letter from the 34 organisations comes as EU environment ministers prepare to meet on Thursday in Brussels on a proposal to ban products that fuel deforestation, which would slap controls on imports including beef, soy, palm oil, cocoa and coffee.

The groups said the draft proposal is "necessary and positive," but needs "improvements" to truly fight deforestation in exporting countries such as Brazil, home to 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest and a leading exporter of many of those products.

"Deforestation and conversion of natural ecosystems must be eradicated if humanity is to stand a chance of stabilising global warming," said the letter, signed by groups including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Brazil office, the Climate Observatory and The Nature Conservancy.

They said the draft plan, presented in November, 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.

"On large farms, an owner may maintain a deforestation-free production area for export to Europe and another area for deforestation," they said.

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Indigenous peoples' rights

The groups also called for "firm assurances" on human rights, particularly to ensure that agribusiness is not pushing 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 last November.

But deforestation has surged in the country in recent years, notably under President Jair Bolsonaro.

Since the far-right agribusiness ally took office in 2019, the average annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has risen more than 75 percent from the previous decade to an area bigger than Jamaica.

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Source: AFP