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Amid recent contentious events regarding deforestation and climate change in various parts of the world, Canada has asserted that they are back on the world stage as a world leader on climate change. It is therefore fair to conclude that they now bear the international responsibility for acting in an unwavering and effective manner in the face of environmental crisis and legitimate concerns from the international community.
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Throughout this opinion piece I claim that in order to truly be considered a world leader in the international arena, it must show that it can bring about considerable change with its foreign policy and strategy. Canada must aim to enforce the legally binding regulations set in the International environmental agreements and ally with other countries in nullifying any trade agreements with Brazil in order to signify the legitimacy of environmental agreements and their values as a country.
For the past several months there has been an alarming number of wildfires in the Amazon instigated by President Bolsonaro and deliberate deforestation. From the biodiversity side, the Bolsonaro government has objected to protections for Amazonia lands as set out in the Convention on Biological Diversity, arguing that these undermine the ability of future generations to market or produce value-added, ignoring the goal of sustainable development. President Trudeau has claimed they will provide assistance and resources to Brazil in order to control the wildfires, and has openly urged other presidents to “do more to protect the environment”.
“According to a recent survey, the environment is the top issue among residents heading into the federal election, coming in ahead of topics, such as the economy and health care, which have long been a high priority for Metro Vancouver voters.” To say that Canadians do not mind Canada’s standpoint on the environmental crisis is an understatement- they are more concerned than ever about the environment. Many have denounced Trudeau for focusing on foreign policy discourse more than on taking deliberate immediate action that enforces international regulations.
This is a topic that ought to be of concern to everyone because of the value of the Amazon rainforest as a source of life and oxygen that goes beyond its geographic location. “Between August 2017 and July 2018 Brazil lost nearly a billion trees. Preliminary satellite data showed that 920 km² were cleared in June, 88% more than the same month in 2018. In July a startling 278% more than the same month last year” The official figures show more than 87,000 forest fires were recorded in Brazil in the first eight months of the year – the highest number since 2010.”
Considering that there are international environmental agreements in place that have regulations that could be enforceable such as under the Convention on Biological Diversity that aims to protect the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of biodiversity, an absence of action upon these agreements would be tactless. Legally binding treaties such as the Convention on Biological diversity enable countries to hold others accountable for not complying with environmental regulations and having lenient targets. It is the responsibility of Canada as a world leader to lead the way by ensuring that these rules are being complied with. There is a lack of enforcement in illegal deforestation and land rights.
Similarly, while other multilateral treaties and agreements such as Agenda 2030 for Sustainable development and even the Paris agreement are non-binding and can therefore be considered soft law, it can still be politically influential in establishing objectives and aspirations. Although the Paris agreement lacks an enforceable mechanism, countries such as Canada must find a way to stand up against Brazil by ensuring that other conventions that do have enforceable mechanisms are used for their advantage.
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Some claim that Canada does not have to halt trade agreements with Brazil, and should instead focus on including environmental provisions in the Canada-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement with Brazil. By placing commercial barriers on Brazilian products and limiting trade with them, Canada’s diversification strategy will be compromised. Canada-Mercosur would contribute to the growth Canadian companies and workers-from British Columbia’s lumber and Ontario’s auto parts and chemicals products to Quebec’s aerospace sector and the Atlantic provinces’ fisheries.
Although it is a fair argument, economic projections from Global Affairs Canada suggest that it could boost Canada’s real gross domestic product by about 1.3 billion dollars. It represents economic growth of about 0.051 per cent, which is not significant relative to the importance of other markets. Moreover, including environmental provisions might provide an incentive later to President Bolsonaro to consider trade but it is not sufficient right now. Simply condemning Bolsonaro’s harmful policies signals not only a feeble foreign policy strategy on the part of Canada, but it also undermines Canada’s core values that the Trudeau government claims to hold.
As a call to action, Canada should immediately cease negotiations with Brazil as part of the Mercosur-Canada FTA. Canada has the duty to halt trade negotiations with a country that is not only negligent in the response to the people’s concern for the environmental degradation in the Amazon, but also completely indifferent to International law. Canada ought to be responsive to the concerns and desires of the international community and that entails holding other countries accountable by imposing sanctions, fines or other diplomatic or economic actions that protect our environment and biodiversity abroad, and ultimately defend against threats to international peace and security.
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