Activists hack EU Commission HQ with giant image of Amazon fires

Europe complicit in Amazon destruction, says Greenpeace

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Brussels – Five activists scaling the 14-storey facade of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels hung a 30-metre banner mimicking a hole burned through the building, revealing the Amazon in flames, with the message: “Amazon fires – Europe guilty”. The activists also used smoke machines and fake ash to simulate the fires currently burning in the Amazon rainforest, which look set to be even worse than last year’s headline-grabbing destruction. 

European consumption of products that drive forest clearance makes the EU complicit in these fires and other forest destruction, said Greenpeace. The EU Commission is considering a new law to cut Europe’s contribution to deforestation, so Greenpeace has joined over 100 other environmental and social justice organisations to demand that forest destruction products are kept off the EU market.

© Johanna de Tessières /Greenpeace

Sini Eräjää, Greenpeace EU agriculture and forest campaigner, said: “The Amazon fires might be far away, but Europe has added fuel to the flames. By buying meat, soy for animal feed and other products from deforested areas, Europe is complicit in the destruction of the Amazon and other ecosystems, driving climate breakdown and exposing us to dangerous diseases like Covid-19. Europeans should be able to do their shopping safe in the knowledge that nothing on the supermarket shelf is linked to forest destruction or human rights abuses – we need a strong EU law to ensure this.”

Despite warnings of the need to protect and restore forests, the planet is losing one soccer field worth of forests every 2 seconds. Agricultural expansion is responsible for 80% of all forest destruction worldwide, with soy, beef and palm oil three of the most damaging products. 

The European Union is responsible for over 10% of global deforestation, like the disastrous fires in the Amazon, through its consumption of commodities like meat, dairy, soy for animal feed, palm oil, cacao and paper. In 2014, the EU was responsible for 41% of global imports of beef, 25% of palm oil and 15% of soy (mostly for animal feed).

After years of waiting, the European Commission finally promised to propose new legislation in 2021, in its recent Biodiversity Strategy, to tackle the destructive impact of the EU’s consumption of these products. The Commission has opened a public consultation, asking what action should be taken to address Europe’s contribution to forest destruction.

Greenpeace is calling for a strong EU law to ensure that nothing sold in Europe is linked to forest or ecosystem destruction, or related human rights abuses as voluntary measures and corporate promises have all so far failed. 

Greenpeace is also calling on European governments to reject the EU-Mercosur trade deal, which would accelerate the destruction of the Amazon and other ecosystems in South America.

Double threat of climate breakdown and pandemics

Protecting forests is crucial in the fight against climate breakdown, as deforestation accounts for over a tenth of global carbon emissions, but it is also essential in preventing new pandemics.

The UN and the WHO have warned that future pandemics similar to Covid-19 must be prevented by addressing the source of outbreaks – the destruction of nature. 

A new study in Nature found that rats, bats and other animals that carry and transmit dangerous viruses thrive in areas where humans have destroyed forests and other ecosystems.

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Sini Eräjää, Greenpeace EU agriculture and forest campaigner: +32 (0)476 975 960, sini.erajaa@greenpeace 

Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911,

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by Greenpeace European Unit 11/09/2020