Finnish politicians demand action on Amazon rainforest fires

A protest outside Brazil's embassy in Helsinki, and strong comments from Finnish politicians, highlight the concern over Amazon fires.

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File picture showing smoke from fires above Amazon rainforest / Credit: WWF

Finnish politicians are demanding more action to fight thousands of devastating fires in the Amazon rainforest, and to combat the causes of the fires as well.

MEP Ville Niinistö (Green) has issued a stark warning about the situation in the Amazon rainforest, and says the EU has some leverage to force Brazil’s government to do more to tackle the problem.

So far this year 73,000 fires have been recorded in the Amazon, 85% more fires than were seen in the whole of 2018 according to conservation group WWF. Up to one-fifth of the world’s oxygen-producing ecosystem is at risk, and although wildfires are common during the dry season when they can be sparked by lightning strikes, they’re also exacerbated by farmers and loggers clearing the forest for commercial use.

Ville Niinistö says the EU should use the Mercosur free trade agreement as leverage to force the Brazilian government to act more responsibly to fight the fires and their causes, in line with climate-change goals.

“The extreme right-wing President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, is not interested in environmental objectives or the prevention of climate change. The burning of the Amazon forests is, on the contrary, increasing” says Niinistö.

The MEP says that as the current holder of the EU’s rotating Presidency, Finland should whip a tough line across the EU to put pressure on Brazil’s government.

“As a large trading partner, the European Union has power in relation to Brazil. The EU needs to tackle Bolsonaro’s rainforest-destroying and climate-resilient policy” he adds.

Prime Minister calls for EU help 

Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne (SDP) says he is “very much concerned about the forest fires in Brazil.”

“They are a threat to our whole planet, not just to Brazil or South America. When it comes to climate change, the situation is extremely serious and we need to act immediately” says the PM.

Rinne says he has contacted the European Commission, and hopes they can take action.

“Brazil’s rainforests are vital for the world’s climate. I am truly worried about the attitude Brazil seems to have adopted right now regarding its own forests” the Prime Minister adds.

Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo (Green) writes on Twitter that says that if Brazil or other South American countries ask, the European Union has a well-resourced mechanism to support efforts to put out the wildfires.

Brazil’s President Bolsonaro has reacted angrily to criticism of the Amazon fire situation, and accused European politicians of “meddling” in Brazil’s internal affairs.

Bolsonaro has said environmental groups are the main suspects in starting the fires, because they lost funding.

A protest is scheduled on Friday at the Brazilian embassy in Helsinki’s Eira neighbourhood.