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UPDATE 2-France's BNP to stop financing firms farming deforested land in the Amazon

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·1 min read
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(Adds details, reaction from environmental groups)

PARIS, Feb 15 (Reuters) - France's largest bank BNP Paribaspledged on Monday to stop financing firms producing orbuying either beef or soybeans cultivated on land in the Amazoncleared or converted after 2008.

The lender also said it would encourage clients not to buyor produce beef or soy farmed in the Cerrado, a vast tropicalsavanna eco-region covering 20% of Brazil, only financing thosewhich adopt a strategy of zero deforestation by 2025.

Environmental campaign groups said BNP Paribas' move sent astrong signal to companies trading commodities in the region,but pressed for faster action.

"Financial institutions exposed to the agricultural sectorin Brazil must contribute to this fight against deforestation.This is the case for BNP Paribas," the bank said in a statement.

Soy and beef are two of the largest drivers of globaldeforestation. Population growth and rapidly expanding middleclasses in countries like China have fueled an explosion indemand for soy and increases in consumption of meat and dairy.

Some scientists warn the Amazon forest, which spans ninecountries, is hurtling towards a death spiral as deforestationcontinues apace. An area of Amazon rainforest the size of Israelwas felled last year, according to Amazon Conservation.

Half of the Cerrado has already been cleared and is one ofthe planet's most threatened ecosystems, four environmental NGOssaid in a joint statement.

"BNP Paribas is giving traders five more years to clearforests with impunity," Klervi Le Guenic of Canopee ForetsVivantes said.

BNP and other European lenders including Credit Suisseand Dutch bank ING committed last month tostop financing trade in crude oil from Ecuador after pressurefrom activists aiming to protect the Amazon.(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Matthieu Protard; Writing byMatthieu Protard and Richard Lough; Editing by Kirsten Donovanand Jan Harvey)