Analysis

A pivotal moment in the fight to tackle our addiction to the products of forest destruction

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Investigation

Untamed Timber

02.02.2021 The Brazilian flooring giant let off the hook by Bolsonaro's government and now thriving across the US and EU

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Investigation

Taiga King

16.12.2020 How European firms fed a Russian tycoon's billion-dollar illegal logging scam

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Investigation

Grand Theft Chaco: Luxury cars made with leather from the stolen lands of an uncontacted tribe

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Short-sighted UK Environment Bill will leave Brazil deforesters unchecked

11.06.2021 Gutting of conservation laws in Brazil – an important supplier of soy, beef and other commodities to the British market – could mean suspect commodity imports waved through in UK thanks to glaring weakness in proposed regulation.Here, Earthsight’s Rubens Carvalho documents the latest news from Brazil on how its government has aggressively rolled back environmental protections and hollowed out its own law enforcement agencies in efforts to legalise unsustainable practices by agribusiness and extractive industries The Environment Bill under debate in the House of Lords is an important step towards halting deforestation embedded in British imports of forest risk commodities (FRCs), such as beef, soy, palm oil, cocoa, rubber and leather. Significant concerns about the proposal remain, however, such as those related to the exclusion of the financial sector and a lack of provisions on human rights. One glaring weakness is the bill’s narrow focus on legality. As it stands, businesses placing FRCs on the British market would only need to make sure these comply with the laws of producing countries and are not linked to illegal deforestation. While eliminating illegal deforestation from international supply chains is a long overdue necessity, restricting regulation to compliance with local laws will not be enough to tackle the global climate and biodiversity crises. Such laws may allow unsustainable levels of deforestation. Under pressure from powerful agribusiness lobbies, politicians beholden to those interests (often corruptly) in producing countries may also legalise what should be illegal. Brazil provides an excellent case in point. The current administration of President Jair Bolsonaro and his Environment Minister Ricardo Salles is unapologetically against identifying and punishing environmental criminals. Salles has been targeted by federal prosecutors, the Supreme Court and Federal Police for openly abetting environmental harm. Trade data show the UK is one of Europe’s five largest importers of Brazilian soy and beef. In 2019 alone Britain consumed nearly 1.7 million tonnes of Brazilian soy, almost half of which was found to be linked to deforestation risk. A spate of recent measures, scandals and congressional votes in Brazil illustrates the perils of relying on the laws and institutions of a country where the boundaries of what is legal – and enforceable – are as transient as the priorities of the government of the day. All this at a time when Congress has swung in the government’s favour following the election of Bolsonaro allies to the presidency of the lower chamber and Senate in February. Activists fear a flurry of new legislation that will further undermine environmental protections. This process is already under way. In April Congress picked up a bill – first proposed by then congressman Bolsonaro in 2014 – that militarises environmental law enforcementin the Amazon, side-lining Ibama in favour of military officers answerable to Salles and Bolsonaro. Last month Brazil’s lower chamber approved a new environmental licensing law, effectively getting rid of licensing requirements for several impactful economic activities – including large-scale cattle ranching. Experts believe it is a major threat to protected areas.

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Illegal Deforestation Monitor scrutinises the unlawful conversion of forests for agribusiness around the globe.

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The inside scoop on suspect wood, Timberleaks shines a spotlight on dodgy timber traders and supply chains.

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A guidebook to help activists and communities on the forest frontlines to investigate illegal logging and trade.

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