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UK government complicit in Bolsonaro’s assault on Amazon, says cross-party group of 30 MPs

Exclusive: Letter calls on Bolsonaro to cease his ‘assault on the Amazon, its people, and the future of our planet’

Daisy Dunne
Climate Correspondent
Friday 27 August 2021 18:43 BST
Related: Extinction Rebellion protest outside Brazilian embassy over Amazon fears

The UK government is complicit in Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s assault on the Amazon rainforest, a cross-party group of MPs have warned.

In a letter shared with The Independent, UK politicians call on Mr Bolsonaro to urgently  “abandon [his] assault on the Amazon, its people, and the future of our planet” amid escalating levels of deforestation and harassment of indigenous groups in Brazil.

“In 2019, invasions of indigenous lands rocketed by 135 per cent and deforestation surged by 85 per cent,” the letter reads.

“This assault on the Amazon means that the forest now emits more carbon than it absorbs, with scientists recently warning that it is reaching an irreversible ‘tipping point’, beyond which it will not generate enough rain to support itself.

“This would be a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions, putting all our futures in peril.”

The group, led by Labour MP Zarah Sultana and signed by representatives from the Green Party, the Lib Dems and the SNP, added that the UK government is currently not doing enough to combat Amazon destruction.

“The British government is complicit in this assault on the Amazon,” the letter said.

“British banks finance agri-businesses and mining companies are responsible for the Amazon’s destruction, while British corporations profit from goods made on deforested lands.”

Ms Sultana told The Independent: “President Bolsonaro is waging war on the Amazon rainforest and the indigenous peoples it is home to. This is a catastrophe for Brazil – and could spell irreversible climate disaster for us all.

“The climate crisis is a capitalist crisis, with its endless accumulation drive putting profit over human flourishing and survival. We urgently need a system with the interests of people and planet at its heart.”

The warning comes after analysis covered by The Independent earlier this week found that the UK’s landmark overseas deforestation law risks being ineffective due to loopholes and exemptions.

The government in November announced new rules to prevent UK businesses from using commodities linked to illegal deforestation overseas.

But analysis by the environmental charity WWF found it could have a “limited impact”.

One major reason for this is that the current rules only apply to illegal deforestation rather than all types of deforestation. This means that UK businesses could still use commodities linked to deforestation if the producer country deems this forest loss to be legal.

In areas of Brazil that supply soy to the UK, up to 2.1 million hectares of natural vegetation – an area larger than Wales – could be deforested under current rules, the analysis noted.

Mr Bolsonaro is facing increasing international pressure over his environmental policies.

Earlier this week, climate activists from Extinction Rebellion descended on London’s Brazilian embassy to protest against Amazon destruction.

Environmental protesters outside London’s Brazilian embassy this week (AFP/Getty)

Campaigners say the Brazilian president is currently attempting to push through a suite of land regulation bills that could put a further 19.6 million hectares of public land in the Amazon at risk and threaten the rights of indigenous groups.

“Against this threat, the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil is leading a “Struggle for life” and calling on the international community to speak out against your extractive assault on the Amazon,” the letter said.

“We therefore join their call and urge you to abandon your assault on the Amazon, its people, and the future of our planet – and we pledge to work in our own parliament to expose and sanction the multinational corporations that profit from these crimes.”

The letter is signed by MPs including Caroline Lucas, Clive Lewis, Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Tahir Ali, Apsana Begum, Richard Burgon, Dawn Butler, Ian Byrne, Dan Carden, Geraint Davies, Rosie Duffield, Mary Kelly Foy, Tony Lloyd, Beth Winter, Ian Lavery, Grahame Morris, Kate Osborne, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Virendra Sharma, Claudia Webbe, Mick Whitley, Marion Fellows, Kenny MacAskill, John Nicolson, Philippa Whitford and Wera Hobhouse.

It is also signed by members of the House of Lords, including Baroness Blower, Baroness Bryan of Partick, Baroness Chakrabarti, Baron Hendy, Baron Sikka and Baron Woodley.

A UK government spokesperson said “tackling deforestation and greening supply chains” was one of its top priorities for Cop26, the global climate summit taking place in Glasgow in November.

“We maintain a regular dialogue with the Brazilian government and legislators on the progress of legislation in Brazil that affects rates of illegal deforestation,” the spokesperson said.

“In line with recent calls to halt illegal deforestation, including in the Amazon, we are introducing world-leading due diligence legislation through the environment bill to help address illegal deforestation across UK supply chains. This will make it illegal for larger businesses operating in the UK to use key forest risk commodities produced on land illegally occupied or used.”

The Independent also contacted the Brazilian government for comment.

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