Amazon deforestation - BlackRock's Big Problem


  • Amazon deforestation

    The Amazon is the world's largest rainforest. It’s critical for biodiversity and climate regulation, because it ‘pumps’ water into the air – like a heart – to produce rain and cool the earth. The Amazon is the world's largest carbon sink, storing an estimated 150-200 billion tons of carbon. It also houses at least 10% of the planet’s known biodiversity, and is home to over 400 distinct groups of Indigenous peoples, who have protected this crucial ecosystem for centuries.

    Yet the Amazon – and the safety and autonomy of the Indigenous peoples who call it home – is being actively destroyed by agribusiness, oil drilling, and mining. The scale of deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest surged to a 12-year high in 2020, with destruction soaring since President Jair Bolsonaro took office and weakened environmental laws and enforcement. Over 4,000 square miles – an area about the size of Connecticut – have been razed. These industries cause deforestation and biodiversity loss, contribute to climate change, and threaten the Indigenous peoples who rely on the rainforest for their survival.

    BlackRock is the #1 backer of the companies driving deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. It is also one of the biggest investors in oil companies operating in the Amazon despite staunch opposition from local Indigenous peoples.

    Deforestation is the second-largest driver of climate change, after fossil fuels. We can’t protect the climate without protecting the rainforest. Amazon oil drilling also represents a double climate threat due to both fossil fuel extraction and deforestation. 

    Across the region, most agribusiness, oil, and mining activities take place on the territories of Indigenous peoples who have not been consulted or have explicitly rejected industrial development. Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has slashed safeguards for Indigenous territorial rights to pave the way for agribusiness development, often leading to the displacement of communities from their ancestral homelands.

    BlackRock is a major investor in the parent companies of Brazilian agribusiness firms that produce wood chips for paper products, soy, wheat and other agricultural commodities, as well as the commodity traders like ADM and JBS that buy and export soy and beef.

    Agribusiness and illegal logging are not the only threats to the rainforest and forest peoples in the Amazon. In the western Amazon, oil concessions cover an area larger than the state of Texas and provide access to remote roadless areas, accelerating deforestation in the region.

     To make matters worse, much of the oil drilling projects – and plans to expand it – operate on the territories of Indigenous peoples who have not been properly consulted or have explicitly rejected the presence of oil drilling on their land.

    BlackRock is a major investor in oil companies expanding in the region. Each of these companies currently holds licenses to explore and/or drill in the Western Amazon’s fossil fuel frontier in blocks on or near the territories of Indigenous nations that have rejected oil drilling on their territories.

    If BlackRock claims to be a leader in sustainable investing, it should not be financing companies with horrible human rights and climate records like those operating in the Amazon. Time is running out to protect the Amazon, and global investors need to stop making the problems worse.