Exclusive: US aims to sanction Brazilian loggers, adding teeth to fight against climate change

Exclusive: US aims to sanction Brazilian loggers, adding teeth to fight against climate change

RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 23 (Reuters) – The United States is seeking to crack down on environmental criminals responsible for growing deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon, using sanctions such as the Magnitsky sanctions to fight climate change more aggressively, Reuters has been told. Reuters US sources and officials.

The plan represents a major shift in Washington’s strategy to fight global warming, adding the bite of direct sanctions to its toolbox of tax incentives, diplomatic nudges and complex, slow-moving multilateral agreements.

Deforestation in Brazil has reached a 15-year high under incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro, who rolled back environmental protections and pushed for more mining and commercial agriculture in the Amazon, a crucial buffer against climate change.

Leftist President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will take office on January 1 and has already pledged to end deforestation at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt last week. In conversations with US officials, Lula and his allies stressed his focus on fighting climate change.

Yet there are still question marks over how he sees the plan, which is in its early stages. Lula believes Washington helped Brazilian prosecutors jail him for corruption and has often rubbed shoulders with the long arm of US law enforcement.

Magnitsky’s sanctions aim to punish those accused of corruption or enabling human rights abuses. They would freeze all US assets and block all Americans and US businesses from dealing with sanctioned individuals or entities.

The US Treasury Department, which is responsible for the Magnitsky sanctions, declined to comment. Neither Bolsonaro’s office nor Brazil’s Justice Ministry responded to requests for comment. Lula’s transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The US plan began to take shape in June, at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, when the US and Brazil announced a joint task force to combat illegal deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, a source said. American working on the plan.

One of the task force’s goals is to “deter the use of the international financial system in association with illegal activities with forest products,” according to a US State Department statement at the time.

In more specific terms, a separate US official with knowledge of the plan told Reuters that Washington is seeking to penalize major deforesters and perpetrators of other environmental crimes such as illegal gold mining.

US officials in Brazil and the United States have already begun the process of identifying and investigating specific targets, the source said, with potential sanctions ranging from visa blacklists to global Magnitsky sanctions.

It’s unclear when or if the United States might sanction specific targets, as investigations can take some time.

Targeting environmental criminals with Global Magnitsky sanctions is unusual but not unprecedented.

In 2019, the Treasury named Try Pheap, a Cambodian tycoon and ruling party official, for creating a large-scale illegal logging consortium in collusion with officials.

The Treasury Department is working on the plan with the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs and the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, the source said.

During a visit to Brazil in August, Brian Nelson, the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said June’s Summit of the Americas meeting prompted further conversations with Brazil about how to “manage the challenge we all face around climate change”. “

“Certainly, environmental crimes are an important feature of that from our perspective,” Nelson said in a meeting with reporters, mentioning “the deforestation of the Amazon.”

During his visit in August, Nelson also met with civil society groups in Sao Paulo to discuss environmental crime “and its link to organized crime and public corruption”, according to a statement from the Treasury at the time. .

Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter and Brad Haynes; Editing by Christian Plumb and Lisa Shumaker

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

#Exclusive #aims #sanction #Brazilian #loggers #adding #teeth #fight #climate #change

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *