Press conference of Phil Hogan, Member of the EC in charge of Agriculture and Rural Development, on the Common Agricultural Policy after 2020.

Big Phil backs Mercosur to rein in Bolsonaro on climate

October 2nd, 2019

Phil Hogan has said that the controversial Mercosur trade deal gives the EU “some leverage” to work with Brazil on environmental issues such as deforestation in the Amazon.

Mr Hogan was speaking earlier this week during a hearing for his nomination as Trade Commissioner during which he fielded numerous questions on environment issues linked to the free trade deal.

Without a trade agreement, Mr Hogan said that the EU “wouldn’t be in a position to put some leverage on the Mercosur countries” to deal with issues such as the recent forest fires in the Amazon largely caused by deforestation.

“All of us are appalled by what’s happening in the Amazon, but we don’t have the tools at the moment in the European Union to deal with them effectively without actually some leverage through trade policy,” he said.

The possibility of a trade agreement, Mr Hogan went to say, led to the decision of the Brazilain president Jair Bolsonaro to “move with us and become part and signatory of the Paris Agreement”. 

Under the Agreement, he continued, Bolsonaro is “talking about 12 million hectares of reforestation between now and 2030” and “zero logging”. 

Fires started across Brazil this summer Graphic: Global Forest Watch

Poor track record 

Despite Mr Hogan’s assertions, Brazil’s current right-wing leadership is moving the country in the opposite direction of its Paris Climate Agreement pledges made in 2015. 

Under the agreement, Brazil pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 37 per cent by 2025, and by 43 per cent five years later. 

While Mr Bolsonaro did not fulfil his more campaign promise of withdrawing from the agreement, he has pursued anti-environmentalist policies including the weakening of deforestation legislation.

In addition, Bolsonaro’s administration has expressed an interest in pursuing economic activities in the Amazon such as agricultural expansion. 

The majority of deforestation in the Amazon in recent years is due to the expansion of the beef industry, and as a result, Brazil has now become the world’s largest beef exporter. 

Parts of the rainforest have also been cleared for exported soybean production, which often serves as animal feed for cattle. 

He has frequently said that environmental regulations are hindering economic development and his Government has cut funding and staff at state environmental agencies. 

About the Author

Kayle Crosson

Kayle is a multimedia journalist focused on climate and environmental issues and contributes to The Irish Times and The Green News.

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