Ireland may vote to block a trade deal between the E.U. and South American nations if Brazil fails to curb record fires ravaging the Amazon, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Friday.
“I am very concerned that this year has seen record levels of destruction of Amazonian forests by fire,” he said in a statement.
“There is no way that Ireland will vote for the E.U.-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement if Brazil does not honor its environmental commitments.”
Varadkar added Ireland “will monitor closely Brazil’s environmental actions” over the next two years ahead of European Union ratification of the Mercosur deal.
The Irish PM was joined by France’s Emmanuel Macron on Friday, who said he would not support any agreement without appropriate action from Bolsonaro on the Amazon.
The German government, however, has voiced opposition to their reaction, saying it was “not the right response.”
Once in force, it will cover markets of 780 million consumers representing a quarter of global gross domestic product.
He also criticized the “Orwellian” stance of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro laying the blame for the fires on environmental campaign groups and NGOs.
Bolsonaro has also claimed activist groups are whipping up an “environmental psychosis” in a bid to harm Brazil’s economic interests.
The Brazilian leader has repeatedly dispared Brazil’s indigenous, saying they “live like zoo animals,” and has encouraged the “devolpment” of the Amazon to promote mining, agribusiness, and other industries.
Since Bolsonaro has come to power, paramilitary like forces tied to these industries have pushed deeper into the Amazon, intimidating and sometimes killing indigenous leaders and leaving a path of destruction in their wake.
Dozens of fires have scorched large swaths of the Amazon ran forest. And now Brazil's government is facing a global backlash.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 23, 2019
Official figures have recorded nearly 73,000 forest fires in Brazil over the first eight months of the year – the highest number for any year since 2013.
The majority of the fires were in the Amazon.
Environmental experts say the fires have accompanied a rapid rate of deforestation in the Amazon region.
According to data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), the process of deforestation quadrupled this July in comparison to the same month in 2018.
Scientists have issued a dire warning that losing just one-fifth more of Brazil’s Amazon would trigger a feedback loop known as “dieback,” described by the Intercept as a phenomenon “in which the forest begins to dry out and burn in a cascading system collapse, beyond the reach of any subsequent human intervention or regret.”
Varadkar’s warning came as other world leaders voiced concerns over the fires.
French President Emmanuel Macron labeled it “an international crisis” and called on the G7 to address the matter at their weekend summit, while U.N. chief Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply concerned.”
Fires in the Brazilian Amazon are at a record high. Why? This climate scientist points to human-caused deforestation. pic.twitter.com/9wj3w3zZG2
— AJ+ (@ajplus) August 22, 2019
“Our house is on fire. Literally. The Amazon, the lung of our planet which produces 20 percent of our oxygen is burning,” Macron said on Twitter.
In Ireland, Varadkar is already facing pressure over the Mercosur deal from the agriculture industry, particularly beef farmers.
They fear their sector – already experiencing turbulence due to Brexit – will be undercut by opening E.U. markets to 99,000 tonnes of South American beef imports each year under the terms of the pact
In the United States, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders threatened to impose sanctions on governments and business that threaten the environment.
“Climate change is a global emergency. Bolsonaro and his corporate cronies are burning the Amazon rainforest for personal profit and jeopardizing our planet’s survival,” he said on Twitter Thursday.
“My #GreenNewDeal will impose climate sanctions against corporations that threaten our global climate goals.”