Europe’s richest countries importing Brazilian beef linked to millions of tons of emissions: Report

Adella Miesner

Millions of tons of emissions are embedded in Europe’s Brazilian beef imports each year, equivalent to the annual footprint of between 300,000 and 2.4 million EU citizens, according to a new report by London-based NGO Earthsight. Though global emissions are expected to see a record fall this year due to […]

  • Millions of tons of emissions are embedded in Europe’s Brazilian beef imports each year, equivalent to the annual footprint of between 300,000 and 2.4 million EU citizens, according to a new report by London-based NGO Earthsight.
  • Though global emissions are expected to see a record fall this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Brazil is set to defy the trend, with a predicted rise of between 10% and 20%. Deforestation and cattle ranching account for more than half of the country’s emissions.
  • Two companies, Brazil’s JBS and Italy’s Silca, were found to be responsible for almost a quarter of the estimated emissions documented by Earthsight, while just eight firms were responsible for more than half of all imported emissions.

Millions of tons of emissions are embedded in Europe’s Brazilian beef imports each year, equivalent to the annual footprint of between 300,000 and 2.4 million EU citizens, according to a new report by London-based NGO Earthsight.

The researchers found as much as 21 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions may have been attached to Europe’s beef imports in 2019, with the highest emissions linked to Italy, followed by the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Earthsight said in its report, “The carbon lottery: Estimating carbon footprints embedded in European imports of Brazilian beef,” that the emissions were equivalent to the annual footprint of up to 2.4 million EU citizens.

Though global emissions are expected to see a record fall this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Brazil is set to defy the trend, with a predicted rise of between 10% and 20%. Deforestation and cattle ranching account for more than half of the country’s emissions.

Most of the imported emissions are linked to cattle ranching in Mato Grosso, a Brazilian state that straddles the Amazon and Cerrado biomes.

Two companies, JBS and Silca, were found to be responsible for almost a quarter of the estimated emissions documented by Earthsight, while just eight firms were responsible for more than half of all imported emissions.

Italian firms Silca and Bervini Primo, Brazilian firm JBS’s European operations, and German food giant Tonnies Fleisch had higher embedded carbon footprints than entire recipient countries, according to the report.

The research looked at average emission estimates across various types of pasture and forms of herd management in Brazil’s top five beef-exporting states, with deforestation being the most significant factor in determining the carbon footprint.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon soared in 2019, up by almost a third on the previous year, and has increased every year since 2017.

Europe’s reliance on beef from Mato Grosso, Brazil’s second-most-deforested state and the source of about 85% of the continent’s emissions, were reflected in the high-end estimates Earthsight reported, the group said.

Sam Lawson, Earthsight’s director, said the extent of deforestation and carbon emissions risk in Europe’s Brazilian beef supply chains was “frightening.” 

“Authorities in both the EU and U.K. have committed to taking firm action to address the impact of their consumption,” he said. 

“These findings underscore the urgent need for European leaders to pass supply chain due diligence legislation. Importers must be forced to know the origin of their products and exclude those associated with forest loss and other abuses.”

 

Banner image: The cattle which the Amazon and Cerrado supports help feed the developed world’s hunger for beef. Image by A.C. Moraes.

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Beef, Cattle, Cattle Pasture, Cattle Ranching, Deforestation, Environment, Forests, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Rainforest Conservation, Rainforest Deforestation, Rainforest Destruction, Rainforests, Research, Supply Chain, Threats To Rainforests, Tropical Forests
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