Burning Amazon must be a priority for EU leaders

22 August 2019

Responding to remarks by Brazil President Bolsonaro about fires in the Amazon, as well as scientific reports about the risks of the permanent loss of the Amazon jungle in Brazil due to deforestation undermining the rainforest’s ability to regenerate over time, the leader of the Labour Party, Brendan Howlin TD, called for the Taoiseach and European Union leaders to address the issue as an urgent priority at the next EU summit.

Brendan said:

“I am calling on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and EU leaders to ensure that the issue of the Amazon rainforest is dealt with at the next summit of EU heads of government as a matter of the utmost urgency, as part of Europe’s response to the global climate emergency.

“For decades, scientists have been evaluating the risk of a catastrophic sequence of events that would lead to a tipping point known as ‘Amazon dieback’, where major parts of the Amazon rainforest dry out and become savannah, with massive loss of biodiversity, a huge release of carbon dioxide and incalculable harm to indigenous people. A recent international study estimates the economic harm to Brazil as being in the range of $957 to $3,589 billion, in a context where Brazilian GDP is $150 billion per year.

“A World Bank report in 2010 made it clear that this scenario must be avoided at all costs. But there are real reasons for concern. A ‘once in a century’ drought in the Amazon in 2005 was followed by another such drought in 2010. Further droughts of this nature could set off the Amazon dieback process, which is next to impossible to halt.

“Despite the seriousness of this risk, the current policies of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro show total disregard for environmental science and for the serious risks to Brazil’s people and its economy. President Bolsonaro has encouraged deforestation for mining and agriculture, and he has fired leading scientists who demonstrated the deforestation that he denied was occurring. It is outrageous that he is now peddling patently false stories about non-government organisations setting fires in the Amazon.

“The potential loss of the Amazon rainforest would have serious consequences around the world, including for Europe, given that a fifth of all oxygen is generated by the Amazon and it keeps centuries worth of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

“The European Union has influence over Brazil, given the desire of South American countries to engage in greater trade with Europe.

“Now is the time for the EU to put down a strong marker that we will never reward Brazil through trade if the Brazilian government continues to allow the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.“


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