France will block an EU trade deal with Brazil over the country’s handling of fires in the Amazon rainforest, a spokesperson for President Emmanuel Macron has said.
The rainforest – which covers northwestern Brazil and extends into Colombia, Peru and other South American countries – has been burning for weeks, causing a loss equivalent to three football fields per minute.
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has been criticised worldwide for his response to the fires, which environmental groups say were caused by his hand due to him giving the go-ahead for farmers and illegal loggers to enter indigenous communities.
The office of President Macron said Bolsonaro must have been lying when he played down concerns about climate change at the G20 summit in Japan and June, Reuters reports.
A spokesperson for the Elysee told the news agency:
The president can only conclude President Bolsonaro lied to him at the Osaka summit. In these conditions, France will oppose the Mercosur deal as it is.
As reported by The Independent, the EU-Mercosur trade deal reached agreement in principle earlier this year after 20 years of negotiation. Mercosur is a trade bloc which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – Venezuela is also a member but has been suspended since 2016.
If the deal is approved, it would be the largest trade deal struck by both the EU and the Mercosur in terms of population.
Earlier today (August 23), Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, also indicated Ireland could try and block the EU trade deal, stating: ‘There is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement if Brazil does not honour its environmental commitments’.
Both Ireland and France would need support from other member states to form a blocking minority to veto the deal, with Macron yesterday calling for the issue to be discussed at the G7 summit and referring to it as an ‘international emergency’.
The Brazilian president criticised him, saying he ‘regrets’ that Macron ‘seeks to make personal political gains in an internal matter for Brazil and other Amazonian countries’.
This comes after leaked documents showed Bolsonaro was actively trying to devastate the Amazon rainforest by having a ‘strong government presence’ in the region to prevent any conservation projects going forward.
Conservationists fear if the fire continues to burn at its current rate, the rainforest will reach a ‘tipping point’ from which it will never be able to recover.
The Amazon rainforest – known as the ‘lungs of the world’ because it provides 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen, as per Business Insider – could stop producing this oxygen and supporting wildlife if it continues to burn.
It could also worsen climate change by triggering a ‘doomsday dieback scenario,’ which would ultimately result in dry leaves that would cause the release of 140 billion tonnes of carbon stored in the Amazon into the atmosphere and increase global temperatures even further.
Indigenous groups living within the Amazon have tried desperately to save the land, although the Brazilian president yesterday (August 22) claimed his government ‘lacks the resources’ to extinguish the fire.
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