BNP Paribas to stop funding Amazon deforestation

France's biggest bank says it will stop financing firms that produce or buy beef and other goods cultivated on deforested land in the Amazon.

BNP Paribas says it will also encourage clients not to buy produce from such areas.

It will only finance firms that adopt a zero-deforestation strategy by 2025.

In a statement the bank said financial institutions had to contribute to the fight against forest loss.

Environmental groups said the move sent a strong signal to companies trading commodities in the region - but pressed for faster action.

One said BNP was giving firms five more years to cut trees with impunity.

Soy and beef production are two of the biggest drivers of deforestation.

Population growth and expanding middle classes in countries like China have fueled explosive demand for soy, meat and dairy goods.

Some scientists warn that the Amazon forest, which spans nine countries, is hurtling towards destruction.

Campaigners say an area the size of Israel was cleared last year.