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Senators Implore Entities to Intervene in Amazon

September 17, 2019, 4:00 PM HST
* Updated September 17, 3:24 PM
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Courtesy photo.

U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) led a group of 13 senators in writing a pair of letters to corporate signatories to the New York Declaration on Forests, calling for the major companies and financial firms to wield their influence to combat the ongoing fires and runaway deforestation in the Amazon.

In the face of destructive policies by Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro, it is time for corporations to live up to their commitments to combat deforestation around the globe, the senators contended in their letter.

The New York Declaration is a partnership of governments, multinational companies, civil society and indigenous peoples who strive to halve deforestation by 2020 and to end it by 2030. One letter is addressed to retailers, food and beverage companies and consumer goods companies, which may have supply chains that extend into Brazil. The other is to financial institutions, urging them to account for the Amazon fires in all due diligence.

“As a major multinational corporation with a global footprint and considerable economic influence, your stated commitment to ending deforestation is admirable and necessary,” the senators wrote. “However, the fires in the Amazon this year are an emergency and require action from all of us now. You have the power to demand President Bolsonaro enforce his country’s environmental laws, and can reassess your operations in light of inaction. Please speak up and make it clear that the protection of the Amazon is essential to your company doing business in the region.”

Companies receiving the letter are Cargill, Danone, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, L’Oreal, Marks & Spencer, McDonald’s, Mondelez, Nestlé, Pick n Pay, Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson, Unilever, Walmart, Yum! Brands, Barclays, Boston Common Asset Management, Calvert Investment Management, Deutsche Bank, Lloyd’s Banking Group, Miller/Howard Investments and Trillium Asset Management.

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The Amazon accounts for 25% of the carbon that global forests absorb each year. Amazonian ecosystems are also critical to the health of the world’s oceans and the global food chain. Yet, since Bolsonaro took office at the beginning of the year, the Brazilian Amazon has lost more than 1,330 square miles of forest cover, a press release from the office of Sen. Schatz stated. Enforcement actions by Brazil’s environmental agency fell by 20% during the first six months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018.

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The senators warned of the risk of hitting a “tipping point,” beyond which the loss of powerfully carbon-absorbing rainforest will cement the worst effects of climate change and rob society of vital biodiversity.

“Given your public commitment to protecting forests, we respectfully urge you to thoroughly account for the runaway deforestation in Brazil in your due diligence, and to call for immediate action from President Bolsonaro,” the senators continued.

PDF versions of the letters are available here (to corporations) and here (to financial firms).

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