28 August 2020
The resignation of Irish EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan is an opportunity to bring trade policy in line with climate ambition, Europe’s leading environmental coalition has said.
Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe has urged the European Commission President Ursla von der Leyen to seek a new commissioner who will ensure trading practices between the 28 country-strong bloc and other regions adheres to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.
This level of warming is a threshold that, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), will avert some of the most severe impacts of the climate crisis.
One of the biggest tasks on the new Trade Commissioner’s desk will be the EU-Mercosur trade Agreement, the text of which was finalised last month.
The agreement, if it passes, would allow for the free trade of beef, amongst other products, between the EU and Mercosur countries, namely Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil.
Trade as a mitigation tool rather than “an amplifier”
Its ratification, CAN Europe argue, would fuel deforestation as fires in the Amazon rainforest are used to clear the land to produce export commodities such as beef and soy.
Germany recently said it would not support the deal, according to the youth climate activists who urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to reject it.
The climate cost and recent developments around the agreement should see the new Trade Commissioner put “the current deal on ice,” CAN Europe Trade and Climate Project Manager Cornelia Maarfield said.
“This should be the moment for the EU to start resolving the contradictions between its trade and climate policies. Trade must become a tool to mitigate climate change, rather than an amplifier,” she added.
Phil Hogan argued in the past that the agreement could allow the EU to leverage Mercosur countries through trade policy, arguing in his Commissioner nomination hearings that the possibility of a trade agreement facilitated Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro signing the climate Paris Accords.
However, Brazil’s current right-wing leadership is moving the country in the exact opposite direction. The Bolsonaro administration has pursued anti-environmentalist policies, which included weakening deforestation legislation.
Agreement is “inconsistent” with EU values
In a new assessment published this month jointly by Uplift and TASC, the agricultural and climate practices of Mercosur countries were found to be “inconsistent” with EU values.
The authors said that a further opening of the EU market to Mercosur beef producers will “undoubtedly incentivise” the sector’s growth which will lead to further Amazonian deforestation and consequently “exacerbate climate breakdown”.
Therefore, these policies contradict the values the EU have put forward in the Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategy, the report concluded.
The European Council is expected to vote on the agreement’s acceptance or rejection in October. The Council will need to reach a unanimous decision, and then the agreement must be voted on in the European Parliament, followed by a subsequent ratification from all Member States.
The coalition government of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party have committed to conducting an “economic and sustainability assessment” of the deal in order to “inform future action in this area”.