Hussh | Brazil is back

Brazil is back

At COP27 this year, President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (commonly referred to as Lula) announced to the world that “Brazil is back.”

Punctuated by chants of “olé, olé, olé, ola, Lula, Lula”, Lula’s speech brought a much-needed feeling of hope to the frequently criticised climate summit. In an early nod to his campaign bid, he has vowed to soon begin to undo the environmental destruction that his far-right predecessor, Jair Bolsonari, oversaw and work towards a goal of zero-deforestation across the Amazon rainforest.

Followed by fanfare wherever he went, Lula said that his administration would go further than ever before on top environmental issues, cracking down on illegal logging, gold mining and agricultural expansion, whilst also restoring climate-critical ecosystems.

The most important contribution Brazil can make to global climate health is reducing deforestation. A huge amount of the Amazon rainforest — the largest rainforest in the world — falls within Brazilian territory. In 2015, it was reported that of the 2.4 billion metric tons of carbon forests absorb globally each year, the Amazon accounts for a quarter.

Between 2005 and 2012, Lula’s administration ran a successful campaign to reduce deforestation by around 80 percent, however the election of his rival, Jair Bolsonaro, threw the country’s progressive ambitions out of the window — with environmental issues relegated to the bottom of the political pile.

A far-right conservative, Bolsonaro believed that considerations for the planet should not be allowed to inhibit economic and industrial development. As Brazil’s leader, he had immense support from agribusiness lobbyists (known as the “Ruralistas”) who collectively hold extensive influence over the Brazilian congress through self-funded campaigns.

Lula’s win couldn’t have come at a more crucial time, with scientist Carlos Nobre’s studies warning the Amazon is close to crossing an irreversible tipping point. “Nobody is safe,” Lula said of the climate crisis, detailing the consequences of global heating.

“Today, I am here to say that Brazil is ready to join once again [the] effort to build a healthier planet. Brazil has just ended elections, one of the most decisive in its history. It was followed in an unprecedented way by other countries. It could help control the rise of the authoritarian right and climate deniers around the world.”

It should also be noted that Norway’s environment minister said the Amazon Fund — a billion-dollar international kitty designed to support Amazon protection efforts — would be reactivated, having previously been frozen as a result of the “head-on collision with Bolsonaro” over deforestation.

The former metal worker and trade unionist also placed a lot of emphasis on building partnerships, vowing to work with other Amazonian countries, including Peru, Colombia, Guyana and Venezuela, towards sustainable development in the region while also protecting key ecosystems.

We couldn’t be happier for Brazil to usher in a new era of environmental change in a time when it feels like globally, politicians are rejecting progressive action in favour of short-term profits from fossil fuels and oil lobbyists. We wish Lula and his administration, as well as the people of Brazil, the best.