Protesters outside the Brazilian embassy in Dublin today are part of the worldwide backlash against the lack of action on stopping fires in the Amazon rainforest, and against the regime of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. RollingNews.ie photo
By Irish Echo Staff
The Amazon is on fire and Ireland is stepping up with a political fire bucket.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned that Ireland will vote against the Mercosur trade deal between the EU and a number of South American countries, Brazil included, unless Brazil observes environmental standards and protects the Amazon rainforest.
Varadkar’s warning comes as wildfires rage in the Amazon and amid mounting international criticism of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro for failing to protect the rainforest, the Irish Times reported today.
Ireland alone could block the trade deal, but Ireland is not alone in warning Brazil that it will do so.
French president Emmanuel Macron, who is hosting the G7 Summit in Biarritz this weekend, has accused President Bolsonaro of lying to him at the G20 summit earlier this year, this on Brazil's stance on climate change.
Under current conditions, France will oppose the Mercosur Free Trade Agreement with the EU as it stands, a French official was reported as saying.
Mr. Varadkar has also hit back at President Bolsonaro blaming the Amazon fires on NGOs and environmental groups as "Orwellian.”
While the Amazon rainforest and its vital role as a carbon absorber and generator of 20 percent of the earth’s oxygen supply is clearly of concern to the taoiseach, so is the matter of beef.
The Irish Independent reported that the Irish government has come under “massive pressure from struggling beef farmers over fears the Mercosur deal will flood the European market with cheap South American products.”
The Mercosur announcement came on top of escalating concern over the threat posed by Brexit among farmers already reeling from low beef prices, the report stated.
The irony in all this is that the Amazon fires are largely due to forest clearance for beef ranching.
That forest clearing and the fires could now be coming to the rescue of those hard pressed Irish beef farmers.
The world demand for beef is increasing, and Brazil is second only to the United States in beef cattle raising.
The British government has all but threatened the Irish government over the Brexit backstop by indicating tis willingness to import Brazilian beef at the expense of Irish producers.
If the Amazon keeps burning, however, even London might find it difficult to open the British market to Brazil.
Mr. Varadkar, meanwhile, has stated that he is very concerned at the record levels of rainforest destruction.
"President Bolsonaro's efforts to blame the fires on environmental NGOs is Orwellian," he said. Varadkar also said comments by the Brazilian leader saying his country would stay in the Paris Accords on Climate Change "for now" would "raise antennas across Europe.”
Mr. Varadkar, according to the Independent report, said the vote on Mercosur was two years away and Brazil's environmental actions would be monitored in that time.
He said Irish and European farmers couldn't be told to embrace stringent rules including using less pesticides and fertilizer "if we don't make trade deals contingent on decent environmental, labor and product standard.”
He said the political agreement on Mercosur "does that" but will have to be monitored closely.
Labour Party leader, Brendan Howlin, called on Mr. Varadkar and other European leaders to ensure the destruction of the rainforest was on the agenda of the next EU summit.
He said the Brazilian government shouldn't be rewarded through trade if it continued to allow its destruction.
The Amazon fires and Climate Change are expected to be on the agenda this weekend in Biarritz for the G7 gathering.
Much of Europe, as it happens, will be going through its third major heat wave of the summer.
The G7 Summit will be attended by President Trump. President Bolsonaro has compared himself to Trump, and both are working to roll back environmental regulations.
Bolsonaro, however, has it in his power to do the most damage to the global environment, or render crucial life-saving help to it.
At this juncture, the populist Brazilian seems intent on the former course.