By Jake Spring
BRASILIA (Reuters) - A group of eight European countries are urging Brazil to take "real action" to combat rising deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, which is threatening Europe's desire to source food and other products sustainably.
The group of countries called the Amsterdam Declarations Partnership, currently led by Germany, sent an open letter to Brazil's Vice President Hamilton Mourao late on Tuesday expressing concerns that Brazil is backsliding on its formerly strong record on environmental protection.
"While European efforts are aiming at achieving deforestation-free supply chains, the current trend of rising deforestation in Brazil is making it increasingly difficult for businesses and investors to meet their environmental, social and governance criteria," the two-page letter said.
"The countries meeting under the Amsterdam Declarations Partnership would expect a renewed and firm political commitment from the Brazilian government to reduce deforestation being reflected in current and real action."
Mourao, who is leading the Brazilian government's Amazon protection efforts, did not immediately respond to a request for comment via his press office. Mourao has sought in meetings with European investors this year to assure that Brazil is taking sufficient actions, including by instituting a 120-day ban on fires in the Amazon.
The Amsterdam Declarations Partnership, which aims to supply Europe with deforestation-free commodities, includes Germany, France, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom. Belgium, which is not a partnership member, also is a party to the letter.
The letter praised Brazil's past actions to preserve the environment, but noted "deforestation has increased at alarming rates" recently. The countries said they are ready to intensify dialogue with Brazil on the subject.
Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest has surged 34.5% in the 12 months through July, the official period that Brazil uses for measuring annual deforestation, according to preliminary government data.
Environmental advocates blame the policies of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro that call for the development of the region for emboldening illegal loggers, ranchers and land speculators to destroy the forest.
Bolsonaro says that development is necessary to lift the region out of poverty.
(Reporting by Jake Spring; editing by Jonathan Oatis)