Bolsonaro-backed bill – scheduled to be decided today – could lead to the deforestation of an additional 16,000 square kilometres of the Earth's largest rainforest, according to NGO Imazon.
British supermarkets and food groups have warned Brazilian lawmakers they could boycott products from the country if a contentious bill that would authorise further destruction of the Amazon rainforest is approved today.
More than 40 leading companies, including Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Nandos and Marks & Spencer, sent an open letter to Brazil's National Congress last night urging lawmakers to vote down a bill that legalises the private occupation of rural, urban, and rainforest land.
Echoing the concerns of environmentalists and scientists who have vehemently opposed the bill in recent months, the British businesses claim the law "would encourage further land grabbing and widespread deforestation", endangering the survival of the Amazon, the world's climate goals, and the rights of Indigenous communities.
The proposed bill is backed by President Jair Bolsonaro and is scheduled to be voted on today by lawmakers through an online vote necessitated by the coronavirus crisis.
Many consumer-facing businesses have stepped up efforts to end deforestation in their supply chains in recent years, following a high profile pledge to end net deforestation by 2020.
The letter warns that the new law would undermine efforts to manage supply chain risks and as such "it would also put at risk the ability of organisations such as ours to continue sourcing from Brazil in the future".
Supporters of the bill say it will help fast-track thousands of outstanding land claims and encourage land owners to comply with landownership regulation, including environmental laws.
But Giles Bolton, responsible sourcing director of Tesco, said the risk that the legislation could enable increased logging remained. "The Amazon is a vital environmental resource for the world and we want to work with local partners to ensure that protecting it is also the best economic option for Brazil," he said. "But providing an amnesty for the minority who have already destroyed parts of it would encourage more destruction. Should this proposal pass, the ability of leading businesses to continue sourcing there will inevitably be called into question."
The Amazon, which has a critical role in slowing climate change and regulating planetary health given the vast amount of greenhouse gas it absorbs, is also home to a 750,000-strong Indigenous population.
Deforestation of the rainforest has soared to record levels in recent years under the hard-right government of President Bolsonaro. In April, the rate of deforestation in the rainforest was up 64 per cent compared to the same month a year prior, according to data from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research. Forest loss in the rainforest has not been abated by the global economic crash caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, having risen for 13 consecutive months, it said.
Environmentalists and scientists claim the proposed law will supercharge the devastation. If the new measure is approved, NGO Imazon estimates that the bill could lead to the deforestation of an additional 16,000 square kilometres of the Amazon by 2027.
The British businesses, which have significant investment and operations in Brazil, said that they, too, were "deeply concerned".
"We want to continue to source from and invest in Brazil and help ensure that protecting the Amazon can be economically productive for all," the wrote. "We urge the Brazilian government to reconsider its stance and hope to continue working with partners in Brazil to demonstrate that economic development and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive."
The letter was also signed by Ocado, Iceland, Asda, Aldi, Burger King, Morrisons, and the British Retail Consortium.
Marina Valls at RenewableUK reveals how green hydrogen could help catalyse the next phase of UK decarbonisation
Pursuing an ambitious low carbon, environmental, and skills agenda as part of the government's economic recovery plan is a key part of the solution to today's public interest concerns around unemployment, regional inequality, and resilience argues Aldersgate...
In its vision for the UK's transition to net zero, RenewableUK predicts that installed wind capacity will surge six-fold to more than 120GW by 2050.
A new Greenpeace report notes that Microsoft, Amazon and Google are undermining their public carbon commitments through by providing services that allow oil and gas firms extract fossil fuels from the earth.