Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/8/2019 (314 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA - Some Canadian environment groups are urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to put the brakes on attempts to seal a free trade agreement with Brazil until stronger policies to protect the Amazon rainforest are in place.
Trudeau landed Friday in the French resort town of Biarritz for his final international summit before the fall federal election. The talks between the world's wealthiest developed economies are expected to include tensions with China, political unrest in Hong Kong and the nuclear deal with Iran, which is backed by Europe but opposed by U.S. President Donald Trump.
All of that, however, was upstaged by the fires burning in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, which are now the subject of an expected emergency session.
France and Ireland have already threatened to block the European Union's trade deal with the Mercosur trading bloc, saying Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's rapid deforestation of the Amazon has to stop. A record number of fires are burning there, threatening a habitat that supplies one-fifth of the Earth's oxygen and is home to one-fifth of its fresh water and half of all insect, plant and animal species.
The rainforest is also a substantial carbon sink, absorbing at least one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, almost the same amount produced by Latin America.
Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, said Canada needs "to halt negotiations on the Mercosur trade deal until Brazil puts meaningful policies in place to protect the Amazon."
"My heart is in my throat today thinking of the emergency the Amazon and the animals and people that live there are facing," Abreu said.
"One in every five breaths we breathe is produced in the Amazon. The Amazon is the heartbeat of the global hydrological cycle. Ecosystems worldwide will quite literally collapse if we fail to protect this incredible place."
Canada began trade talks in 2018 with the Mercosur bloc, a trading group that includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. The sixth round of talks took place in June and the Canadian government issued a preliminary gender-based analysis of such a deal Friday.
In a tweet late Thursday, Trudeau agreed with French President Emmanuel Macron that an emergency debate was needed.
“We did lots of work to protect the environment at the G7 last year in Charlevoix, and we need to continue this weekend," he said. "We need to act for the Amazon and act for our planet — our kids and grandkids are counting on us.”
But there has been nothing specific from Trudeau on what Canada might do.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has offered help to fight the fires — Brazil says it doesn't have the resources to do it on its own, though Bolsonaro said Friday he may send in the country's military to help.
Bolsonaro has accused the G7 of acting colonialist in wanting to talk about Brazil without him or an emissary at the table. He has also denied his policies to expand farming and mining are at fault, and even suggested non-governmental organizations who want to blame his government lit the fires themselves. He later walked back that accusation slightly.
Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan says the G7 leaders can't use the Amazon fires to distract from their own failures to do enough to reduce climate change at home.
A report card issued this week by Climate Action Network International said the G7 countries are all lagging on acting to cut their own emissions.
Shane Moffatt, head of the nature and food campaign for Greenpeace Canada, said every country needs to think globally but act locally when it comes to reducing greenhouse gases and protecting forests.
"Just this week, a new report came out warning us that bigger, hotter wildfires are turning Canada's vast boreal forest into a significant new source of climate-changing greenhouse gases," he said. "This means that Canada should be showing much greater leadership in protecting our forests here at home. Right now, Canada is dead last among G7 nations in protecting our lands and freshwaters."
Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.
To those who have made donations, thank you.
To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.
The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.
After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.
If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.
We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.