The environment as a strategic priority in the European Union–Brazil partnership: is the EU behaving as a normative power or soft imperialist?

Original Paper

Abstract

In 2007, Brazil entered the European Union’s (EU) list of strategic partners; a token of recognition of the place Brazil occupies in current global affairs. Although promoting bilateral environmental convergence is a stated priority, cooperation between the EU and Brazil in this policy field is largely under-researched, raising interesting questions as to whether the current state of play could support EU claims for the normative orientation of its external environmental policy. Through an analysis of partnership activities in the fields of deforestation and biofuels, we suggest that while normative intentions may be regarded as a motivating force, critically viewing EU foreign environmental policy through a ‘soft imperialism’ lens could offer a more holistic understanding of the current state of bilateral cooperation. While the normative power thesis can be substantiated with regard to deforestation, we argue that by erecting barriers to shield its domestic biofuels production, the EU is placing trade competitiveness and economic growth above its normative aspirations. Subsequently, the partial adoption of sustainable development as an EU norm leads to policy incoherence and contradictory actions.

Keywords

Climate change Deforestation Biofuels Mercosur Latin America Multilateralism 

Abbreviations

ACP

African, Caribbean and Pacific

ACTO

Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization

AFOLU

Agriculture, forestry and land use

ASEM

EU–Asia Meeting

BASIC

Brazil, South Africa, India and China

BNDES

Brazilian Development Bank

BP

British Petroleum

BRICS

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa

CAP

Common Agricultural Policy

CBD

Convention on Biological Diversity

dLUC

Direct land use change

EIB

European Investment Bank

EU

European Union

FTA

Free trade agreement

FP

Framework Programme (for Research and Technological Development)

G-20

Group of 20

IBSA

India, Brazil and South Africa

iLUC

Indirect land use change

JAP

Joint action plan

LUC

Land use change

MEBF

Mercosur–Europe Business Forum

Mercosur

Mercado Común del Sur

NGO

Non-governmental organization

REDD

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation

SUNLIBB

Sustainable liquid biofuels from biomass biorefining

TPES

Total primary energy supply

UNCED

UN Conference on Environment and Development (1992)

UN

United Nations

WSSD

World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002)

WTO

World Trade Organization

Notes

Acknowledgments

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under the Grant Agreement No. 251132. We also thank Jouni Paavola, Julia Leventon, Vivek Mathur, James Porter and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Earth and Environment, Sustainability Research InstituteUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

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