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The Irish Times

World Bank Loan Withdrawn From Brazilian Cattle Corporation

Frank McDonald

An aerial view shows smoke rising from manmade forest fires set to clear land for cattle or crops in the state of Para in Brazil in this August 12, 2008 file photo. Consumers around the world are unwittingly fueling destruction of the Amazon forest by buying Brazilian beef products linked to illegal deforestation, environment group Greenpeace said on May 31, 2009. (REUTERS/Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace Handout)

THE INTERNATIONAL Finance Corporation (IFC), private lending arm of the World Bank, has withdrawn a $90 million (€57 million) loan to Brazilian cattle industry giant Bertin, following complaints that it was using the money to expand further into the Amazon region.

"It is good news that the World Bank is withdrawing these funds, yet scandalous that it was feeding a company that causes Amazon deforestation and climate change in the first place," said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Brazil's Amazon campaign director.

The move came two weeks after a Greenpeace report, Slaughtering the Amazon, revealed that financial backing for the Brazilian cattle industry had turned it into the largest single source of deforestation in the world.

The report, based on a three-year undercover investigation, showed how Bertin and two other Brazilian companies supplying the global market with cattle products for top brands and supermarkets buy cattle from Amazon farms involved in illegal deforestation.

By helping Bertin to expand into the Amazon, Greenpeace said the IFC had been driving further destruction of the rainforest, a haven for biodiversity and one of the world's key defences against climate change because of its crucial role as a "carbon sink".

"For a bank that portrays itself as the ‘knowledge bank', this was a very ill-conceived and thoroughly destructive use of its resources", Mr Adario said at the weekend. "It must now guarantee that it will not invest in such damaging projects in the future."


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The last $30 million (€21.4 million) loan from the IFC will no longer be given to Bertin and it is anticipated that the World Bank subsidiary will ask that the $60 million (€35.6 million) it had already invested in the company be returned early.

Tropical deforestation is responsible for approximately 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and Brazil has been ranked by Greenpeace as the world's fourth biggest "climate polluter".

Following the slow progress of climate talks in Bonn over the past two weeks, Greenpeace is calling on world leaders to "take personal responsibility for securing an effective climate-saving deal" by attending the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen next December.

"This would include providing $110 million a year for developing countries to tackle the climate crisis, $40 million a year of which should go towards forest protection in return for commitments to end deforestation in the Amazon by 2015 and globally by 2020."

Last week, Brazilian president Lula da Silva announced that he would veto clauses in an Amazon land reform Bill that would legalise the landholdings of millions of people who have settled in the region - a move that could spur more deforestation.

"We want to be an example to the world in taking care of our own things," he said, adding that Brazil was now open to adopting targets to cut its own greenhouse gas emissions if rich countries agreed to do more.

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