The election of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as Brazil’s next president is already helping the country’s climate credibility at this year’s COP27 negotiations, after the leader attended on Wednesday.
Last month, Lula defeated right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro in one of the tightest presidential races, with just 50.9% of the votes. During his presidency, Bolsonaro championed the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, with rates of deforestation increasing to up to 75% from 2019. Also refusing to hold the 2019 climate summit originally planned for Brazil.
In his first international trip after being elected, Lula delivered a powerful speech with the message that “Brazil is back” as a leader confronting climate change.
“We must stop this rush to the abyss. There is no climate security for the world without a protected Amazon,” he said, saying climate change would have the highest priority for his government. We will do whatever it takes to have zero deforestation and the degradation of our biomes.”
Lula promised to ramp up environmental law enforcement and create green jobs like the jungle conservation alliance announced on Monday between the three largest rainforest nations – Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The president told the summit that Brazil would prove that it was possible to generate wealth without destroying the environment, saying it was impossible to separate tackling global warming from poverty. He also said Brazil would ensure that developing nations got the money they are owed to deal with the effects of climate change.
Lula pledged to protect indigenous people, whose land has been targeted under Bolsonaro. Indigenous people in traditional dress stood up cheering and shaking maracas.
Colombia’s Environment Minister Susana Muhamad said Lula’s election would allow for renewed regional cooperation among Amazon rainforest nations to tackle deforestation, a major contributor to climate change.
“There is a new political context in Latin America,” Muhamad said. “We have to work on a communal policy in the Amazon.”
She said Colombia and its own newly elected President Gustavo Petro support Lula’s proposal for a summit of Amazon countries and developed nations interested in conservation.
Lula’s environmental advisor Izabella Teixeira said she felt the mood about Brazil has shifted at COP27 from previous summits. “When I come to COP and meet people after the election of President Lula, there is hope,” she said. “People are so happy because Brazil will be back.” Lula will also meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and has been invited to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, she said.
Lula also plans to work with state governments in Brazil to combat deforestation. His first meeting on Wednesday will be with six Brazilian state governors from the Amazon region who are also at COP27, according to his public schedule.
Talks over the future of the Amazon rainforest comes at a vital time. Researchers showed in March that the Amazon was approaching a tipping point, after which the forest’s ability to sequester carbon dioxide would be lost, with profound implications for the global climate and biodiversity.
Marina Silva, a former environment minister under Lula and an advisor on his campaign, said his coming to COP shows the high importance he places on climate. “The big message is his presence here,” she told reporters at the summit.
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