EU-Mercosur deal risks accelerating deforestation, experts say

Deforestation of the Amazon in the State of Para, Brazil, in 2019.

The trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and Mercosur is a “missed opportunity” in environmental and health matters. This is the stern conclusion of the report of the commission of experts formed by former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, to which The world had access, to assess the impact of the free trade agreement on sustainable development. Signed in the summer of 2019 after twenty years of negotiations, it still needs to be ratified by each EU member state and the European Parliament before being implemented.

In the 194-page document, which must be submitted Friday, September 18 to Prime Minister Jean Castex, the most probable hypothesis adopted by the experts is that of deforestation at an annual rate of 5% for the six years following the implementation. under the agreement, a total of 700,000 hectares. In other words, the environmental cost measured from the additional CO emissions2, at a unit cost of $ 250 per tonne, would outweigh the economic benefits.

The commission bases its calculations on the deforestation caused mainly by the creation of pastures to increase the production of beef, in the four Mercosur countries: Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Beef farming is in fact very often the first step in deforestation before giving way to agricultural crops.

Impact “difficult to quantify”

The carbon footprint of producing a kilo of beef is also three times higher in Latin America compared to Europe, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). However, this hypothesis is far from achieving consensus in the commission, which brought together a representative of the beef industry, economists, a veterinarian or even a specialist in law. For some, the environmental cost is largely underestimated, because the report does not take into account other vectors of deforestation such as soybean cultivation, that of corn, or even poultry farming.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Amazon deforestation is accelerating and could lead to “a point of no return”

“It is much more difficult to quantify their impact on biodiversity” explains Stefan Ambec, environmental economist at the Toulouse School of Economics, and chairman of the committee. Others believe, on the contrary, that the impact has been overestimated, if we retain the hypothesis of a slight increase in beef exports to the European Union, or of an intensification of livestock farming which avoids the creation of new pastures. The reduction in customs duties provided for in the agreement only concerns a quota of 99,000 tonnes of beef, while Mercosur’s production amounts to 8 million tonnes.

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