The terms of the controversial EU-Mercosur trade deal could be changed to prevent carbon leakage occurring when importing agri food such as Brazilian beef, according to Green MEP Grace O’Sullivan.

O’Sullivan said the Green group in the European Parliament is pushing to make these changes in recognition of the higher environmental standards met by the EU’s farmers, but not those producing food in the Mercosur countries.

“We are constantly engaging with the European Commission to try to change the terms of the trade deal [with] Mercosur, particularly in relation to agriculture, because I have met very often with Irish farmers who are very concerned about the potential importation of beef from Brazil and South American countries,” O’Sullivan said earlier this week.

“And particularly because of their environmental conditions. Deforestation is causing all kinds of problems,” she said.

“What I am hearing around the corridors here is that the trade criteria is changing and that the Commission will be much more climate-focused and biodiversity-focused in order to avoid that type of [leakage],” O’Sullivan explained.

A threat to farming

Green Party colleague Ciarán Cuffe MEP echoed O’Sullivan’s remarks, stating that he “did absolutely agree with” then-Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan’s concerns with the deal’s impact on Irish farmers, with the Dublin MEP referring to carbon leakage as a “threat”.

The comments came ahead of a vote on the Commission’s carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) proposal in the European Parliament.

MEPs voted in favour of proposals that would require those importing goods from outside the EU to pay for carbon leakage. These goods on which these monies must be paid have yet to be finalised and will likely not come into effect for a number of years.


O’Sullivan responded to an Irish Farmers Journal question on the possibility of a derogation being sought from proposed changes to the industrial emissions directive that would see farmers with more than 150 cows needing an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permit to operate.

According to O’Sullivan, derogations from any directives or regulations will be harder to get from Brussels.

“I think we have to be very careful in terms of derogation. I think we will see as we move towards the European Green Deal objectives that there won’t be the willingness on behalf of the European Commission to apply derogations,” she replied.

“It is seen by other countries then as not so favourable, so it’s not always beneficial to us as a member state in other areas where we might be looking for support, not even an advantage, but support,” the Ireland South MEP stated, adding that her response related to derogations from environmental regulations in general.