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Eurozone’s biggest bank sued for connection to deforestation

Environmental and human rights activist groups said on Monday they had sued BNP Paribas, the eurozone’s biggest bank, for providing financial services to companies they allege contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

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Brazilian NGO Comissão Pastoral da Terra and French group Notre Affaire À Tous said they filed the lawsuit last week with the Paris judicial court, alleging BNP Paribas did not carry out proper checks before agreeing to finance such companies.

Paris-based BNP Paribas said in a statement that it required its clients to have a “zero deforestation” strategy in their production and supply chains by 2025.

Forest destruction is Brazil’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and climate campaigners are increasingly using lawsuits to push big companies to shift to a low-carbon economy.

French companies have become a particular focus because of a 2017 French law that places the onus on them to identify and prevent risks to human rights and the environment that could occur as a result of their business activities.

The case is the second to target BNP Paribas on these grounds, following another complaint filed last week.

The first ruling by a French court based on the law is due on Tuesday in a case against oil major TotalEnergies.

BNP Paribas said it required “full traceability” from its clients regarding their supply chains of beef and soy from the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado. It pledged to no longer provide financial products or services to those that do not agree to.

“Only a collective commitment by financial institutions can be fully effective,” BNP Paribas said.

“Simply ceasing to finance these actors would have no positive impact on their practices, as they would continue to rely on a largely sufficient number of lenders for their activity,” it added.

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