Brazil accused France of blocking its entry to a key international environmental body, just weeks after their leaders traded insults over wildfires in the Amazon.
The decision to postpone the discussion of Brazil’s participation in the environmental committee of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development was “due to a veto from just one country: France,” Brazil’s foreign ministry wrote in a statement. Repeated calls and messages to France’s foreign ministry were not answered.
Since 2017 Brazil has sought membership of the OECD club of developed nations, eager for the label of approval required by many investors. While Brazil’s bid for full membership and its desire to join the environmental body are technically unrelated, the decision sours the atmosphere around the ongoing negotiations between the Latin American country and the Paris-based OECD.
France’s decision was “political” in nature and “does nothing to contribute to the global cause of environmentalism,” the Brazilian foreign ministry statement added.
The wrangling over membership of the committee also marks the latest nadir in relations between Brazil and the European country over President Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental policies. Ahead of the Group of Seven summit in France in late August, President Emmanuel Macron threatened to scrap a trade deal between the European Union and the South American customs union Mercosur over what he described as Bolsonaro’s “lies” on climate change commitments.
Bolsonaro punched back at what his administration saw as an infringement of Brazilian sovereignty, and his government has undertaken a public relations campaign asserting its commitment to protecting and sustainably developing the rainforest. The fight turned personal when Bolsonaro retweeted a supporter’s criticism of Macron’s wife’s appearance.
While in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, Bolsonaro trumpeted Brazil’s environmental policies and said that those who questioned his record were concerned with exploiting the country’s mineral wealth. He didn’t take part in Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ all-day climate change summit.
Last month, Environment Minister Ricardo Salles went to the headquarters of the OECD to present Brazil’s pledge to adhere to dozens of standards and rules called environment instruments, with the aim of becoming a participant of the environment committee, a status one step below the committee’s full membership.
After the presentation, Salles was asked to leave the room so that the members could deliberate. When he came back, he was informed that the representatives would need more time to review Brazil’s candidacy, according to a person who participated in the meeting.
The person said the presentation lacked some elements and some countries believed that the case was not convincing at this point, which led the board to agree to resume discussions next year. A Brazilian official with direct knowledge said a new round of talks is scheduled for April 2020.
In a statement, an OECD spokesperson said the Environmental Policy Committee “is examining a request from Brazil to become a participant of the committee and adhere to certain OECD instruments in the field of environment, and will continue to engage with Brazil on this in the coming weeks and months.”