Climate Alliance event | 15.06.2020 | Webinar

Brazil in crisis – COVID-19 is the tip of the iceberg

How can Europe support Brazil in overcoming its current humanitarian and environmental crisis?

Within this webinar, Brazilian civil society and indigenous representatives shared their perspective on the situation in their country: what does the instrumentalisation of the crisis in order to speed up deforestation and environmental destruction mean for them and how can Europe support?

The aim of this event is to learn from indigenous representatives about their real needs and the crucial role Europe could play in supporting Brazil out of its crisis. European politicians respond to this and give their opinion on what Europe can do to help.

This webinar is a cooperation event of Climate Alliance, Rainforest Foundation Norway and Society for Endangered Peoples. The recording of the entire webinar is available here


  • Marcio Astrini, Observatório do Clima - see his presentation
  • Dinamam Tuxá & Kretã Kaingang, APIB (Brazil's Indigenous People Articulation)
  • Anna Cavazzini, Member of European Parliament (Alliance 90/The Greens)
  • Kathleen Van Brempt, Member of European Parliament (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats)
  • Marina Silva, former minister for the environment Brazil


We all know that the situation in Brazil is grave, and the evidence that the government is prepared to use the chaos created by the covid-19 crisis to weaken the democratic institutions and environmental safeguards in place in Brazil, giving yet another illustration of the Shock Doctrine described by Naomi Klein in 2007, adds additional concern.

The upcoming German EU Presidency, which put the ratification of the EU-Mercosur trade agreement high on its agenda was also an important frame for this meeting.

Our Brazilian panellists highlighted that the situation on the ground is worse than what is reported, and the government’s action is truly putting democracy and public health in Brazil at risk. They argued strongly that Bolsonaro’s decisions are a danger for the entire planet and called to unite across continents to fight his attacks on the Amazon and the peoples living there.

They made clear that the EU ratifying the Mercosur agreement now would be seen as a “seal of approval” on Bolsonaro’s policies, regardless of the fine print in the agreement. They were also concerned such a deal will help finance the war against indigenous peoples in the Amazon and strengthen existing genocidal attempts. The current agreement is a threat, as it doesn’t offer enough protection for human rights, on the contrary: it will provide a reason to increase attacks on indigenous peoples, the ones protecting the Amazon, many argued.

Indigenous representatives also highlighted the EU’s double talk, on one hand advocating for climate action, but on the other hand negotiating an environmentally damaging trade agreement that finances genocide. They ask for clarity and a choice in priorities: climate and human rights, or trade and destruction, and called for the EU to not ratify this deal.

Members of the European Parliament underlined the growing awareness of the Brazilian crisis in Europe, with citizens and supermarkets starting to mobilise. For them, the Mercosur agreement in its current form does not provide enough environmental protections. They also considered that improvements could be negotiated, and the ratification could be used as leverage to encourage more climate- and humans rights-friendly policies in Brazil. They pointed out that even without an agreement, trade happens anyway: products are already being exchanged between Brazil and the EU, and as such entirely rejecting the agreement will not necessarily improve the lives of Brazilians. However they agreed it is a delicate balance to strike. 

Recommendations include:

  • An ongoing dialogue between Brazil civil society and European decision-makers, as adequate information is necessary in order to neutralize the harm Bolsonaro’s government is doing.
  • Listening and supporting indigenous communities in their resistance is vital, whether on the ground or in the juridical battles they wage against the Brazilian government.
  • The quantification of CO² imports and exports could also be a tool to monitor trade policies.
  • Pressure needs to build up and the European economic power should be harnessed to transform its influence on the rainforest.
  • Rethinking trade policies and aligning them with climate goals would be a logical step. It is past time for European to recognise that its policies have consequences elsewhere and that, among others, the EU dependency on soy imports needs to decrease, which means reforming our agricultural model. Furthermore, the EU should also have a system in place to make sure that the products it imports do not contribute to deforestation: the idea of a new law establishing due diligence in supply chains is starting to take hold.
  • Concerning the Mercosur agreement, it appears important to start working on pre-ratification conditions: what are the minimum (social and environmental) standards Europe requires before signing a trade agreement? We now find ourselves at a crossroads: do we want a new type of trade agreement that takes into account social and environmental factors, or do we stick with the old way and ignore the impact on climate and people?

Want to learn more?
A dialogue on that topic will continue in the coming weeks and months, email us at climatejustice(at) for more information.

The webinar was co-financed by the European Commission in the frame of the DEAR project "Change the Power – (Em)Power to Change".