climate change

Climate hopes from Brazil as Lula defeats Bolsonaro

Brazil’s incoming president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva with former Minister of Environment Marina Silva, after casting his vote during the presidential election. Photo credit: Reuters / Mariana Greif.

By Anders Lorenzen

The controversial and extreme right-wing politician Jair Bolsonaro‘s days as the President of Brazil are numbered. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has won the razor-tight run-off election. This brings a huge sigh of relief to environmentalists and climate advocates as well as anyone concerned about preserving democracy. Lula who first became Brazil’s president 20 years ago secured 50.9% of the vote with Bolsonaro receiving 49.10%, illustrating a divided country.

There have been accelerating deforestation rates if the Brazilian part of the Amazon rainforest. This means that the world cannot make progress on climate change without the world’s twelve-largest emitters on board.

During his tenure, Bolsonaro had laughed at climate fears, he has cancelled laws that enabled forest protection and argued that Brazil had a right to develop the Amazon. 

Much-needed hope

Lula’s victory brings much-needed hope. If he sticks to pledges made during his campaign we are in for a turning point just as scientists are warning that the Amazon rainforest is nearing irreversible tipping points. Lula has pledged a sweeping overhaul of environmental policy, though his actual powers may be limited as Bolsonaro’s allies still control Congress. 

Lula would nevertheless move swiftly in re-establishing Brazil’s role in the international efforts to tackle the climate crisis. According to Marina Silva, Lula’s environmentalist ally, the president-elect would in a show of Brazil’s renewed global leadership send representatives to next week’s UN climate summit, COP27 to be held in Egypt. Though it would be an unofficial delegation as Lula will not assume the presidency before 1st January.

During his victory speech, the incoming president pledged to crack down on illegal logging, mining and land grabbing which have fuelled the damaging deforestation of the Amazon during the past four years under Bolsonaro. “Brazil is ready to retake its leadership in the fight against the climate crisis. Brazil and the planet need a living Amazon,” Lula said. 

During his tenure as president, Bolsonaro rolled back environmental protections and pushed for more mining and commercial farming in the region. As a result, during his time in office, deforestation rates hit a 15-year high. 

Lula has also signalled that he would hold a special summit in 2023 with the objective of preserving the rainforest, to which he would invite countries who are key stakeholders in such a mission.

While climate and biodiversity advocates welcomed Lula’s victory, they were under no illusions that it would be an easy task. Lula not only has to undo the damage done by Bolsonaro but must also revert his policies complicated by the political gridlock in Congress.

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