WelCom May 2021
Catholic organisations are trying to pressure Brazil’s government to do more to protect the South American country’s environment, especially in its Amazon region.
The initiative was launched by the Bank für Kirche und Caritas (BKC), a German financial institution connected to the Church.
Since 2019, when President Jair Bolsonaro took office, there have been repeated environmental crises involving the Amazon and the Pantanal region, which is the world’s largest flooded grasslands. While wildfires and illegal loggers and ranchers destroyed thousands of square miles of native forests, Bolsonaro was accused of weakening the country’s environmental monitoring agencies, and supporting local ranchers who occupied and devastated portions of the Amazon.
‘The government hasn’t been demonstrating that it’s concretely working to preserve the Amazon. So, our commission considers that in such a scenario it’s more and more important to exert international pressure on the current administration,’ said Fr Dario Bossi, a member of the Brazilian bishops’ Special Commission on Integral Ecology and Mining.
The special commission is one of 93 Catholic institutions gathered by the BKC to develop strategies to get the Bolsonaro government to halt deforestation in the Amazon. The organisation has also involved several financial institutions. According to Tommy Piemonte, BKC’s head of Sustainable Investment Research, investors – Catholic or not – are also worried about the impact of the destruction of the Amazon on the indigenous population.
The first concrete measure of the group was to send a public letter on 29 March 2021 to Bolsonaro, making several demands to protect the rainforest.
‘The destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the violation of human rights not only pose a threat to Brazil’s reputation in the international community, but also to the Brazilian economy,’ the document read.
‘If the government doesn’t oppose in a resolute way the destruction of the rainforest and the violation of indigenous peoples’ rights, we, as Catholic investors, will also see more and more of our basis as actual and potential institutional investors in Brazilian companies and in government bonds removed,’ the letter read.
Piemonte said that the plan is to combine economic and moral pressure. ‘We’re not only financial investors, we’re also Catholic. Brazil is a country with a large Catholic population. So, our idea is clearly to motivate not only investors, but also Brazilian Catholics,’ he explained.