Friday, August 14, 2020

Argentine to be China's Pig Farm

A plan to turn Argentina into one of China’s main pork suppliers is being sold to the public by authorities as a $3.5bn (£2.7bn) investment that will generate $2.5bn in annual pork exports and provide 9,500 new jobs. China hopes that South American pork can make up for its bruising losses after the recent spread of African swine fever (ASF) through its own hog herd, killing millions of animals. A survey of 1,500 Chinese pig farms last year showed that 55% had abandoned plans to raise pigs again because of the risk of future disease.

Chinese and Argentinian officials are hammering out a framework to turn Argentina into a pork powerhouse with the installation of 25 hog farms of about 12,500 sows each to supply China’s growing appetite for pork.  The national environment ministry has not yet been involved in the negotiations.

This would practically double Argentina’s current 350,000 sows and boost production from 700,000 yearly tonnes today to 900,000 tonnes in four years’ time. Each plant will be an integrated installation, from the processing of grain for animal feed to hog rearing, slaughterhouse and packaging.

Meeting China’s target would require hundreds of thousands of additional hectares to be turned over to maize and soybean crops, likely adding to Argentina’s runaway deforestation in its fragile Gran Chaco forest, the second largest forest in South America after the Amazon, according to Farn, an environmental and natural resources foundation based in Buenos Aires.

 The proposed project does not sit well with local environmentalists. “You could almost say China is outsourcing the risk of a repetition of such outbreaks by moving production offshore,” said biologist Guillermo Folguera.  “Hog farms produce pathogens, bacteria and viruses that can pass from animals to humans,” Folguera said.

Pigs have a unique capacity to incubate viruses that can bounce between humans, birds and pigs, swapping genes in a process called “reassortment”, which is why hogs are considered potential “mixing vessels” for deadly future pandemics by some epidemiologists.

Argentina’s weak environmental laws are not up to the task of dealing with mighty agroindustrial corporations. “Argentina doesn’t even have a national environmental law,” said María Di Paola, an economist at Farn. “This means that each of the plants will be under not federal control, but under the weaker control of provincial authorities.” So far those authorities have failed to control the the fires that started raging in February in the vast delta of the Paraná River, decimating the wildlife in one of Argentina’s most important natural habitats.

“Generating thousands of new jobs may be tempting, but the truth is we don’t know what the societal, environmental and health costs for neighbouring districts and the population in general will be,” said Di Paola.

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/aug/14/chinas-billion-dollar-pig-plan-met-with-loathing-by-argentinians

Feeding Hungry Children

Thousands of children from migrant families are at risk of hunger when schools reopen in the UK unless the free meal provision is extended, according to a group of 60 organisations.  They are calling free school meals to be extended to pupils from low-income migrant families classed as having “no recourse to public funds”. The organisations are concerned that when this help is withdrawn, thousands of children will lose out on what could be their only nutritious meal of the day.

Sam Royston, director of policy and research for the Children’s Society, said: “It is unacceptable that thousands of children, whose lives have already been turned upside down by the pandemic, could lose out on free school meals...whether a child is able to eat should not depend on their parents’ immigration status.”

The condition of “no recourse to public funds” or NRPF is imposed on migrants who have not qualified for permanent residency in the UK. It prevents their accessing essential support, including free school meals.

An estimated 175,643 non-EEA citizens under the age of 18 lived in families given the NRPF condition. The classification disproportionately affects black and minority ethnic groups and removes the safety net of welfare support from families likely to be already struggling financially, bearing additional costs such as fees for “leave to remain” applications.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/aug/14/migrant-children-face-hunger-over-free-school-meal-restrictions

Cambodia and the Coronavirus Recession

Although the number of coronavirus infections in Cambodia continues to be relatively low Cambodia has taken a heavy hit from the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic with firms staring at canceled orders and people losing jobs.

Garment worker Ny Thea never expected she would be in such big trouble. Just recently she still earned about $300 (€253) per month in a clothing factory, and on top of that, she took in extra cash renting out a luxury car. 
But the coronavirus pandemic has changed everything. The factory fired Thea and 619 of her colleagues, and no one is interested in renting her vehicle anymore. "I can't find a new job. I have no idea how I am going to pay off my debts," she said.
The World Bank as well as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) warn that poverty may significantly increase. According to the ADB, the current crisis could push an additional 1.3 million Cambodians into poverty. The national poverty line defines the poor as people who earn $0.93 or less per day.
Cambodians working in the tourism industry and the garment sector are particularly hit by the crisis.
In the garment industry, many Western clothing brands have canceled orders or are ordering far less garment products than before. And in tourism, international visitors are now avoiding Cambodia and its neighbors as COVID-19 infections continue to spread and countries implement far-reaching travel restrictions.
Sunniya Durrani-Jamal, the Cambodia director of ADB, warns that Cambodia needs to prepare for the worst. "It's all hands on deck while we brace for impact. 2020 is going to be a very difficult year, a year of survival," Duranni-Jamal told DW.
In July, the United Nations warned that the crisis threatens to destroy the livelihoods of 218 million informal workers in Southeast Asia.
"Without alternative income, formal social protection systems or savings to buffer these shocks, workers and their families will be pushed into poverty, reversing decades of poverty reduction," the UN said in a recent policy brief.

Relaxing Pollution Controls

The Environmental Protection Agency is revoking rules that require oil and gas drillers to detect and fix leaks of methane, a greenhouse gas that heats the planet far faster than carbon dioxide. Methane has a much more potent short-term warming effect than CO2 and addressing it is critical to slowing global heating as the world is already on track to become more than 3C hotter than before industrialization. Roughly a quarter of global warming the planet has experienced in recent decades has been due to methane, said Robert Howarth, a researcher who studies methane at Cornell University. The oil and gas industry is the biggest source of the pollutant.

Agency administrator, Andrew Wheeler, will announce the rollback from Pennsylvania, which has major oil and gas operations and is also a politically important swing state. The rule change is part of what Trump calls his “energy dominance” agenda. The methane rollbacks are part of a broad deregulatory campaign by the Trump administration, which has weakened environment and climate standards.

In 2016 Obama enacted rules and regulations in an effort to help stall climate change during a boom in fracking – a method of extracting fossil gas by injecting water and chemicals underground. The regulations required companies to regularly check for methane leaks from valves, pipelines and tanks. Even those in the large oil companies have argued for keeping the rules, saying they are needed so the industry can limit its climate footprint as it markets gas as a smart alternative to coal – which emits far more carbon dioxide.

Methane emitted today is largely gone in 30 years and totally gone in about 60 years, but it has a big effect on the climate in the meantime. That effect is most significant in the first months methane is released, when it is about 120 times stronger than carbon. That drops to around 86 times more powerful over 20 years and 33 times more powerful if compared with carbon over 100 years. Reductions in carbon have a delayed effect on temperatures. But reductions in methane have a more immediate impact. By 2021, methane emissions from existing oil and gas operations could total 9.8m metric tons,  a report from the Environmental Defense Fund. EPA could cut that amount by 37%, or 3.6m metric tons.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/aug/13/trump-rolls-back-methane-climate-standards-oil-gas-industry

Of Mice and Men

Large areas of Germany’s farmland are being decimated by plagues of field mice leading to significant crop loss. In some parts of the country, a quarter of the arable land is affected. Farmers said field mice had been tunnelling under the fields and gnawing at the roots of crops for months, with the neighbouring regions of Thuringia, Saxony Anhalt and Lower Saxony the worst hit. In the central state of Thuringia, as much as a quarter of the crops are affected, with damage estimated at around €450 (£407) for every hectare of wheat. Farmers’ representatives have estimated that two-thirds of their income will be lost as a result and many said they have had to buy in extra animal feed.

Across Germany, the effects of climate change, a succession of dry summers and mild winters have enabled the mice to thrive, leaving an estimated 120,000 hectares (300,000 acres) stripped bare by the rodents and now browning in the current heatwave.  Both environmentalists and farmers agree  what would be ideal is a harsh winter with ground frost, followed by heavy rain, both of which have been rare in recent years.

One option is to leave their fields unsown for winter to try to starve the field mice. Farmers could plough up the ground, but that adds to the dry conditions and can have a detrimental effect on the subsequent sowing season.

Some farmers say the use of rodenticides could keep the population of field mice under control. Julia Klöckner, the agricultural minister, has called for an emergency reappraisal of laws governing rodenticides to cope with what she has called an emergency situation.

Joachim Rukwied, the president of the German Farmers’ Association, welcomed Klöckner’s initiative. “The farmers must be given the possibility to protect their harvest with appropriate measures,” he said. “Right now environmental restrictions are preventing an effective control of the mouse population.”

But environmentalists say that endangered species, such as hamsters, hares, birch mice and migratory birds, risk being killed off as a result.

Magnus Wessel, of the Association for the Protection of the Environment and Nature, said poison was not a solution. “The side effects would be enormous,” he told German media. “Not only would it kill off the field mice, but also the highly endangered common hamster. Birds which ingest the poison would also die.”

It would be more effective, he suggested, to overhaul Germany’s agricultural management, including developing a more diverse landscape with hedges and smaller fields, which offer a natural habitat for birds of prey and other mice predators, such as foxes. Animal welfare groups are calling instead, for a ban on fox hunting because the animals, which each consume between 3,000 and 5,000 mice a year, could help control the population. Hunters kill an estimated 400,000 foxes in Germany every year.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/13/plagues-of-field-mice-decimating-crops-say-german-farmers

Another Resource War?

The Socialist Standard in March drew attention to the mounting confrontation in the eastern  Mediterranean between Turkey and an alliance of rival nations for access to what is promising to be a rich source of gas and oil in that part of the sea. 

The threat has not disappeared and is in fact heightening.

Egypt and Greece have now entered into a maritime treaty to counter a similar agreement signed by Turkey and Libya's UN recognised government last year.

The Guardian reports Greece has placed its military forces on high alert, recalling its naval and air force officers from holiday when Turkey as the Oruç Reis, a drillship, sailed into the disputed waters, escorted by gunboats, to conduct seismic research.

According to the BBC France is deploying two Rafale fighter jets and a naval frigate in the region. French President Emmanuel Macron has urged Turkey to halt oil and gas exploration in disputed waters in the area. 

Macron has also called for EU sanctions against Turkey for what he described as “violations” of Greek and Cypriot sovereignty over their territorial waters.

Even though many of the countries insist upon a peaceful settlement as the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, explained, “Let it be known to all: the risk of an accident lies in wait when so many military forces gather in a limited area.”

American Democracy in Action?

Every other democracy endeavours to increase voter participation by making the process easier. All except Trump's United States of America, that is. We have witnessed many Republican states close polling stations and impose rules that exclude and discourage many voters. Efforts to widen the number of electors are being accused of permitting fraud.

Trump has now admitted  he opposed additional funding for the United States Postal Service (USPS) in order to make it more difficult to deliver mail-in ballots.

Critics say the president is deliberately trying to hamstring the USPS in advance of the November elections to help his re-election bid. Due to the fear of the COVID-19 pandemic election officials are expecting  an unprecedented level of mail-in  voting. Kentucky, the state’s top election official said this week he did not support expanding mail-in voting for the November election because the state did not have the capacity to do so.

Congress has allocated just $400m to help states run elections, a small fraction of the $4bn the Brennan Center for Justice estimates is needed this year. 

Louis DeJoy, the new postmaster general and a major Republican donor, is making cuts at the agency to intentionally slow down the mail. There are reports of severe mail delays in places across the country. A slower mail service could have a big impact because many states require a ballot to arrive at an election office by election day, regardless of when it was put in the mail, in order to be counted. At least 65,000 ballots were rejected during the 2020 primaries because they arrived too late.

Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, dismissed efforts to make it easier to vote in negotiations over stimulus money.

Good cop, Bad cop

November 3rd is election day. The approaching election finds the parties of reaction and reform in full swing.  Another presidential election in which many eligible voters will abstainThose who will vote are in a situation of having to chose between two candidates of the ruling class. It is precisely because workers do care about who is in control that they feel there is no real choice between the Trump and Biden. Although the two differ on their approach some of the issues, neither Biden or Trump, Democrat or Republican, take a stand on the side of the worker. And how could it be otherwise. Both the candidates represent the interests of the capitalists. Both  politicians evade the real issues and instead spout demagogic rhetoric and sound-bites. The deepening pandemic calamity exposes how the "fundamentals" of the economy impact particularly on working people, particularly African Americans. The market system has been a failure.

The Democratic Party establishment preferred to risk a Republican victory by opting for Biden as their candidate and making Kamala Harris, a top cop, as his VP running mate. The Democratic Party leadership is incapable of putting forward much of a political vision which could potentially energize large segments of the American people, and instead, will continue to chase after the Republican party as both parties move further toward the right. Those progressive Democrats who might be capable of doing so, like Bernie Sanders, are doomed to remain on the margins. The corporations has no reason to fear that its freedom to exploit, to blackmail, to pollute, to roam freely in search of the greatest profit margins, will be curbed by Biden. Any differences with Trump don’t make the slightest difference to them. Both candidates express a reluctance to challenge the economic basis of Wall St greed. The electoral system remains undemocratically rigged to deny a voice to anyone outside the party duopoly. Basic reforms have yet to be achieved, such as the elimination of the electoral college or proportional representation instead of first-past-the-post.

It is not enough to refuse to vote or to vote for the “lesser of two evils.” Workers must start acting and operating as a political force in the country if they are to become one. You’re the majority and there is no reason for you not to start making your power and position in society felt. The Democrats and Republicans strive at all times to cover up class contradictions, to speak in the name of the “whole people” instead of in the interests of their class. supporters of Biden try to cover up class conflict, to gloss over them as opposed to exposing them. There can be no further social progress until the working class is united and by permitting certain sections of the population to be discriminated against, the capitalists are given a powerful weapon to split and sabotage the working class movement. 

Socialism will mean real freedom. It means not having to pay for food, housing, healthcare, education and all the other necessities for life. Socialism means that the wealth of society is shared by everyone. It means once people are capable of living without stealing from their neighbors, stealing will stop. It means living in a friendly town where hatred has ended and people are no longer afraid of one another because of the color of their skin or the language they speak. The World Socialist Party of the United States (WSPUS) party does not bow to lobbyists or big business. Our party fights only in the interests of the exploited majority. The Democrats continuously betrayed the interests of working people who refuse to jettison their loyalty because of the threat of the “greater evil,” the Republicans. The idea of building a socialist party though seen as a good idea is always put off to the indefinite future. By legitimating “lesser evil” politics the likes of Chomsky actually discourage potential recruits from leaving the Democrats and joining the socialists.

 Whatever happens this November, the WSPUS is committed to independent political action and democratic functioning so that the party will be able to run future campaigns that challenge capitalist rule without compromise or apology. Unless socialists commit to work today to prepare the chances we will succeed will be very much smaller. We do not accept that the Democratic Party is susceptible to a progressive takeover, let alone a socialist one. We do not believe it will ever satisfy the needs of labor. All evidence demonstrates that activists entering into the Democratic Party to transform it have instead been themselves transformed by it.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Language of Hate, Not Humanity

Ministers have been accused of “stoking tension and division” with comments on migrant boat crossings in the English Channel.
Boris Johnson has called the journeys “very bad and stupid and dangerous and criminal”, while a former royal marine has been put in the new post of “clandestine Channel threat commander”. Priti Patel, the home secretary, called crossings “totally unacceptable” and government statements have repeatedly labelled them illegal.
An official UNHCR document on terminology states that the term “illegal migrant” is legally incorrect and “dehumanising”, adding: “The word ‘illegal’ depicts migrants as dishonest, undeserving, and criminals who are a threat to the public good. This normalises the use of punitive measures, enforcement, and procedures to punish and deter irregular migrants."
The Refugee Council said the term “illegal migrants” should not be used to describe vulnerable people seeking safety and protection. Its director of advocacy Lisa Doyle said: “This unhelpful language can stoke tension and division, at a time when we need the government to show strong, compassionate and responsible leadership on asylum policy.”
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said the continued use of the word “illegal” was “dehumanising, wrong, and seems calculated to whip up anti-migrant sentiment”.
Its legal policy director Chai Patel added: “People have a legal right to cross borders without documents in order to seek asylum. No human being is illegal, and this language wrongly leads to a perception that migrants should be prosecuted and punished, instead of treated with the dignity and respect everyone deserves.”
Charity Refugee Action accused the government of “overt and aggressive hostility” towards asylum seekers crossing the channel by boat. “It is making a bad situation dramatically worse,” said chief executive Stephen Hale. “Their language shows no understanding and no compassion for people who have come from violent and oppressive countries and suffered in ways that are beyond many of our imaginations. This language is also certain to exacerbate the anxiety felt by many people already in the UK who have claimed asylum, and to give cover to those who may wish them harm.”
Anne McLaughlin, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Refugees, told The Independent it was “not illegal for people to cross the Channel” using irregular routes. “The language seems very deliberate and ideological about views that people need to be seen as not human, but criminal,” she added. “I don’t believe for a minute that they’re not aware that using language like ‘Channel threat commander’ will make the public see people as a threat.”
She called the prime minister’s comments on “dangerous and criminal” crossings “vile”, adding: “It’s intended to sow division. As far as I can see, what the government is concerned about is building walls to stop people getting into the Channel and not about tackling the root causes,” she added.
Laura Padoan, a spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said “We should respond with humanity rather than hyperbole.”
David Simmonds, the Conservative co-chair of the APPG on Refugees, urged the government to bolster “robust legal routes” to seek asylum in order to bring the situation under control.  Simmonds said “a lot” of migrants had already died attempting to reach the UK and the true number is unknown.
Extremist group Britain First has launched a “patrol boat” in the Channel and far-right activists have been harassing migrants at a reception centre in Dover.

Food insecurity under COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on the nutritional health of the UK’s poorest citizens with as many as one in 10 forced to use food banks, and vast numbers skipping meals and going hungry, according to the government’s food safety watchdog.  Food insecurity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland was experienced by about 16% of adults – equivalent to up to 7.8 million people. 
This figure more than doubled under Covid-19 and has remained stable over the first four months of the pandemic.  Food bank use has remained high, with one in 10 people reporting they had accessed one in June. Separate figures published by Food Standards Scotland found 5% used food banks. Prior to Covid-19 best estimates put UK food bank use at about 2% of adults. Despite the surge in numbers using food banks since lockdown, the FSA’s qualitative study noted that many of the struggling people interviewed said they had avoided food charity because they felt too ashamed at being unable to provide for their family, and would rather cut meals rather than accept handouts.
Food insecurity has shot up even further since lockdown as people’s income reduced, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said, heightening the risk both of malnutrition and obesity as struggling families adopted highly restrictive “basic sustenance” diets that largely cut out healthy foods.
Food during the Covid crisis was “a continual source of concern and worry” rather than nourishment and security for many families, it found. “Many quickly cut calorie intake and reduced the quality of the food eaten – with far-reaching physical and emotional impact. Many children went without.”
Increasing food prices meant some doubled their food spend, even though they ate less. Many struggled to afford food used to manage their health – such as gluten-free. Birthday meals and Sunday lunches were cancelled. “There was little sense of social sharing when serving toast for the second ‘meal’ of the day.”
The FSA is concerned that many people in food insecurity reported regularly eating food beyond its use-by date such as bagged salad, cheese and smoked fish. Over a quarter said they drank milk that was past its use-by date. “Stretching out” food in this way put them at risk of food poisoning.
“Our research shows our food habits changed rapidly in lockdown and that food insecurity has become an issue for many people,” said the FSA’s chief executive, Emily Miles.
Food insecurity is broadly defined as experiencing hunger, the inability to secure food of sufficient quality and quantity to enable good health and social participation, and cutting down on food because of a lack of money. 
For the better off, Covid-19 has for many provided nutritional benefits, the FSA noted, with its tracker survey showing more people cooking at home from scratch using healthy ingredients rather than having takeaways or buying processed meals, as well as enjoying more family meals together.
These benefits were largely denied to people in food insecurity, whose diet narrowed sharply and was biased towards cheap carbohydrates like rice and pasta. One man, the FSA study found, “ate mostly tinned peas on toast; another woman mostly bread.” Many showed “early signs” of malnutrition. Others put on weight.
The FSA's independent Covid-19 expert advisory panel had identified food insecurity as a “prioritise and act” issue – echoing the findings of the recently published National Food Strategy, which concluded that post-lockdown recession many more families will struggle to feed themselves adequately.
The FSA said its independent Covid-19 expert advisory panel had identified food insecurity as a “prioritise and act” issue – echoing the findings of the recently published National Food Strategy, which concluded that post-lockdown recession many more families will struggle to feed themselves adequately.
“These reports speak of the brutal reality of being too poor to put a meal on the table and how debilitating this is for households with children,” said Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation thinktank. “All scenarios point to a worsening of this bleak situation..."

The Power of the Vote

Poverty affects more than 38 million people in America.

 A report for the Poor People’s Campaign of the country’s 63 million registered low-income or poor voters, 34 million did not cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election.

“If the low-income electorate showed up at the same participation rate as high-income voters, it could swing the election in 10 states that were previously Republican, and five states that were previously Democrat,” said Robert Paul Hartley, the study’s author and a professor of economics at the Columbia School of Social Work.

An increase of at least 1% of the non-voting, low-income electorate would equal the margin of victory in the 2016 presidential election in Michigan or a 4% to 7% increase in states such as Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin,” the study notes.

But low-income and impoverished voters still have to turn out, and first they must register to vote. Voter turnout reached a 20-year low in 2016. But 2020 represents an unprecedented year marked by a pandemic, a recession and racial uprising following the killing of George Floyd which has sparked a surge among mostly, young and progressive Americans, many of whom will be voting for the first time.

Shelton McElroy of Louisville is one of them. Formerly incarcerated, McElroy was disenfranchised until the Kentucky governor pardoned him. Now associate director of operations for the Bail Fund, McElroy says this election is about making sure his children see their father as an example of using your voice and vote as power.

“We want to vote for people who actually share our interests,” he said. 

The worsening coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 5 million Americans, killing nearly 160,000. The crisis has disproportionately hit Black, Latino and indigenous Americans, especially those who are poor or low-income. More than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the pandemic hit. As the economic disaster bites deeper many expect a housing crisis to follow. The Aspen Institute estimates between 30 million and 40 million people “could be at risk of eviction in the next several months”.
The Rev William Barber, the Poor People’s Campaign’s national co-chair, argued that although poverty has rarely been front and center in presidential campaigns trail, that’s now changing.
“Poor people were in a depression before Covid. They are saying we won’t be ignored any more,” he said. “So the question is will poor and low-wealth Americans have a major place on the ballot and conventions? So we are challenging both parties to say you cannot ignore poor and low-wealth families any more.” Barber added, “Changing the political landscape is critical,” he said. “The interlocking injustices that must be addressed simultaneously, that’s systemic racism and systemic poverty, are not marginal issues.”

Oil and The Amazon

Indigenous people living at the headwaters of the Amazon have called on European banks to stop financing oil development in the region, as it poses a threat to them and damages a fragile ecosystem, after a new report found $10bn in previously undisclosed funding for oil in the region.
The headwaters of the Amazon in Ecuador and Peru are home to more than 500,000 indigenous people, including some who choose to live in voluntary isolation. The area, covering about 30m hectares (74m acres), hosts a diverse rainforest ecosystem, but it is threatened by the expansion of oil drilling. An oil spill in April in Ecuador contaminated hundreds of miles of two major rivers and affected 35,000 people in river communities, and there have been ongoing oil spills in Peru. Previous oil exploration in the region resulted in about 17m gallons of crude oil being spilled. About 40% of the oil is exported to refineries in California.
Many banks have pledged to halt or limit the finance they provide to fossil fuel projects, particularly in delicate ecosystems, but the new report focuses on a grey area of bank lending: instead of project finance, the authors looked at trade finance. Project finance is used to start and develop oil wells, fossil fuel extraction, refineries and pipelines, but trade finance is used to move the oil and gas from production to refineries. Banks make loans to companies seeking trade finance, sometimes through intermediaries, but these loans often do not fall under their standard sustainability goals. In a new report, Stand.earth Research Group and Amazon Watch traced $10bn (£7.6bn) of trade finance since 2009 from 19 European banks covering oil in the headwaters of the Amazon. Several of the banks named in the report have confirmed that trade finance – unlike project finance for fossil fuels – did not fall under their standard pledges on sustainable lending.
Marlon Vargas, the president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon, said: “I wonder if the executives of banks in Europe know the real cost of their financing. How can they possibly sleep peacefully knowing their money leaves thousands of indigenous peoples and communities without water, without food and in devastating health conditions due to the pollution of the Coca and Napo rivers? It is time for the banks, companies and consumers of the oil extracted in the Ecuadorian Amazon to acknowledge how their businesses affect our territories and way of life.”
Tyson Miller, the forest programmes director at Stand.earth, told the Guardian: “The Amazon sacred headwaters region is a cultural and ecological gem. It is considered to be the most biodiverse terrestrial ecosystem on the planet, maintaining the hydrological cycle for all of the Americas, and helping to regulate Earth’s climate. New and ongoing oil extraction in the region is a gateway to deforestation and increased agricultural and industrial activity, which is why indigenous leaders in the region have repeatedly voiced their opposition to the expansion of the oil industry, and other industrial activities in their territories.”

Meat the Amazon Deforestation Corporation

Banking giant HSBC have sounded the alarm over the potential risks of investing in JBS, the world’s biggest meat company, after a string of investigations raising concerns about Amazon deforestation issues in its beef supply chain. JBS has annual revenues of $50bn (£38bn) and slaughters almost 35,000 cattle a day in Brazil. JBS’s trucks had moved cattle from a ranch marked by government data as being under sanction due to illegal deforestation to a “clean” farm, which in turn sold cattle onto JBS abattoirs.
The meat giant “has no vision, action plan, timeline, technology or solution” for monitoring whether the cattle it buys originate from farms involved in rainforest destruction, according to analysis by the bank, which has substantial investments in the troubled meat packing firm.
HSBC analysts said they had asked the company “multiple times” about its plan to address deforestation but appeared to be unsatisfied. The analysts expressed disquiet that in their view the company had allowed a smaller competitor to take on the mantle of addressing forest destruction, after Marfrig – another Brazilian beef exporter – committed to full traceability of its Amazon cattle by 2025.
“We have never seen a major industry leader default an industry matter this serious to a smaller participant,” the report said. “It is the major risk on JBS that worries us because it speaks to seriousness of purpose on ESG [environmental and social governance] matters for a company that in our view, has something to prove.” It adds: “There is a valuation benefit that goes with being the largest solution provider to deforestation in Brazil and unfortunately, we don’t see JBS inclined to lead and own that title.”
HSBC analysts discussed JBS’s recent attempt to split the Brazilian part of its business from its global operations, in order to float the international arm on the New York Stock Exchange with no Amazon risk for investors. The report also refers to other historical issues. “After its legacy of governance and corruption problems, JBS’s board and senior leadership are in need of proof points that the firm has indeed turned over a new leaf on ESG responsibility matters.”
JBS is coming under increasing pressure from investors over its environmental record. The investment arm of northern Europe’s largest financial services group last month dropped the company from its portfolio. JBS is now excluded from assets sold by Nordea Asset Management, which controls a €230bn (£210bn) fund.
The bank’s report comes amid global outrage over the fate of the world’s biggest rainforest. The Amazon is a crucial buffer in stabilising the regional and global climate. Experts say its preservation is essential to tackling the climate emergency. Last year, a study by supply-chain initiative Trase concluded that JBS’s global beef exports were linked to up to 300 sq km of deforestation per year in Brazil.
Despite all this, HSBC report still recommends buying JBS stock. “We like JBS for its debt reduction story, diverse portfolio of proteins, geographic footprint, leadership in the industry and scale. Its proposed New York listing would likely improve governance if done correctly, reduce cost of capital and strategically position the company for new growth opportunities.” HSBC holds JBS shares and bonds worth some $9 million