Published On: Fri, Aug 23rd, 2019

Amazon rainforest fire: Varadkar wades into row and vows to VETO EU deal with Brazil | World | News

The warning from Dublin comes amid rising global concerns about the wildfires raging across the Amazon region. Brazilian federal experts reported a record number of forest fires across the country this year – up 84 percent over the same period in 2018. Satellite images show smoke from the Amazon reaching across the Latin American continent to the Atlantic coast and Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

Mr Varadkar said: “There is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement if Brazil does not honour its environmental commitments.

“I am very concerned that this year has seen record levels of destruction of Amazonian forests by fire.

“President Jair Bolsonaro’s efforts to blame the fires on environmental NGOs is Orwellian.”

He continued: “His statement that Brazil will stay in the Paris accords on climate change ‘for now’ will raise antennas across Europe.

“The Mercosur deal is two years away from a vote on approval in Europe. During the course of these two years, we will monitor closely Brazil’s environmental actions.

“There is no way we can tell Irish and European farmers to use fewer pesticides, less fertiliser, embrace biodiversity and plant more of their land, and expect them to do it, if we do not make trade deals contingent on decent environmental, labour and product standards.

“The political agreement on Mercosur does that. We’ll monitor closely if they mean it.”

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The proposed agreement between the EU and a group of countries including Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay was reached at the end of June after 20 years of talks.

It could mean an extra 99,000 tonnes of beef, 18,000 tonnes of poultry and 25 tonnes of pork is imported from South America.

The deal has been heavily criticised by environmental groups and beef farmers, who believe it will lead to poorer quality beef flooding the EU market at the expense of Irish farmers.

“When the EU-Mercosur trade deal was done in June, IFA highlighted the failure of Brazil and others to meet EU standards and the environmental damage to the rainforests.”

Since January this year, Brazil has had more than 74,000 fires in the Amazon rainforests, according to the the National Institute for Space Research.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called the wildfires an international crisis and said the leaders of the G7 group of nations should hold urgent discussions about them during their summit in France this weekend.

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