Trade

Australian fires show risks of EU trade agenda

The EUs twin ambitions to be a global trading power and set the environmental agenda are being tested in bushfire-ravaged Australia.

Green and left-wing MEPs have warned that the EU risks breaking its climate promises by pursuing a trade deal with Australia. Even the blocs own analysis shows that the deal could increase global emissions and fuel the type of fires currently ravaging the Oceanic nation.

The concerns come as two fires have merged, creating a 600,000-hectare “mega fire” in the states of Victoria and New South Wales. They also come as the new European Commission has promised to “use its economic weight” to bring international trading standards into line with its climate ambitions, as part of its so-called European Green Deal unveiled last month.

That pledge followed a backlash over the blocs landmark trade deal with the South American Mercosur bloc over what critics saw as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaros inaction during last years Amazon forest fires.

The Australian fires, which have claimed the lives of at least 24 people and 480 million animals — and destroyed more than 14 million acres of forest — are in line with climate predictions made by Australias federal science agency in 2007.

France has also been pushing for Australia to accept climate targets in the new trade deal.

But the global warming that scientists say paved their way could be exacerbated by the EUs planned trade deal, according to a draft sustainable impact assessment, commissioned by the EU executive and released in December.

The executive summary says that an ambitious trade deal “could lead to land clearing, which is currently one of the most pressing environmental threats in Australia resulting in biodiversity loss and negative impacts on climate change.”

The report says land clearances would enable a 4.6 percent rise in Australias beef and sheep meat production — at the same time that Europes production would drop by 1.4 percent — creating a net increase in planet-warming methane and nitrous dioxide emissions.

“Did negotiators miss the climate memo?” asked Anna Cavazzini, the Green partys shadow rapporteur on the trade agreement in the European Parliament.

Bushfire as seen from Bargo, 150km southwest of Sydney | Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images

“Emissions need to dramatically decrease for the Earth to stay viable — not to keep increasing through sending more beef and sheep meat to the literal other side of the planet,” Cavazzini said. The blocs own figures “show that the deal could worsen the situation [in Australia] by contributing to a rise in emissions,” she added.

A Commission official said that the analysis had only been intended for modeling purposes and that there “would not be a full liberalization of trade in sensitive products such as beef.”

The official added that the Commission expected Australia to “reaffirm their commitments to implement the PaRead More – Source