“Brazil is back,” President-elect Luis Inacio Lula da Silva said in his November 16 speech to COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. But it’s a Brazil far more sensitive to climate change, Amazon deforestation and indigenous peoples’ rights than the one Lula assumed responsibility for when he became president in 2003.
During his speech, Lula promised zero deforestation in Brazil by 2030, a first-ever Ministry of Indigenous Peoples and a crackdown on environmental crime that is rampant under the government of Jair Bolsonaro. He also spoke of a return to the “civilizing values” defended by his former Minister of the Environment and now elected to Congress, Marina Silva.
These announcements were all greeted with great enthusiasm by the Lula audience in Sharm el-Sheikh, where climate negotiators, civil society, business and other actors involved in the fight against climate change gathered over the past two weeks.
The prospect of Brazil returning to the helm of international climate negotiations – and the promise of effective action to tackle climate change – are two very important developments in the climate movement.
Lula’s commitment to climate action
Lula’s presence at the COP itself is a sign of an evolution in his views. In 2002, then-president-elect Lula might not have known what to make of an invitation to the annual climate summit. Climate change and the protection of the Amazon were not very high priorities for Lula and many Brazilians at the time. Fast forward to 2022, President-elect Lula has promised to hold a future COP in an Amazon state.
Lula pledged to end deforestation in the Amazon and announced that Brazil would reconnect with international donors to reactivate the Amazon Fund to help pay for the fight against deforestation.
Making Indigenous Rights a Priority
Lula’s approach to indigenous peoples and local communities is very significant. During his speech, he reiterated his commitment to making the rights of Indigenous peoples a higher priority than ever in his government.
The day after his speech at the COP, he hosted a high-level event with indigenous leaders from around the world. Those present in the room tell us how a feeling of happiness and relief permeated the participants. “He is committed to defending indigenous peoples and to being a political leader who will take advantage of our strategies and proposals in discussions on biodiversity and climate change,” said Harol Rincón Ipuchima, coordinator of climate change and COICA Biodiversity and Co-Chair of the UNFCCC IP Global Caucus, summarized the meeting.
Or as Elcio Manchineri, General Coordinator of COIAB, Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon, told us: “Being able to participate in the new government will be very important for us, the indigenous peoples, and for Brazil. »
Lula also directly addressed the key issues of the negotiations – loss and damage and the commitment of developed countries to adaptation finance for poor countries – in a more informed and engaged way than previous Brazilian presidents. At this point, Lula seems poised to provide the leadership on climate change the world needs from Brazil.
So many reasons to hope in the fight against climate change.
The scientific consensus is that the Amazon rainforest is approaching a tipping point, beyond which much of the forest turns into scrub savannah. The massive loss of trees and vegetation could release enough carbon into the atmosphere to ensure catastrophic consequences of climate change worldwide. Another four years of aggressive promotion of deforestation and the invasion of indigenous territories would, according to many observers, push the Amazon above the tipping point.
We cannot stress enough the importance of the likelihood that Brazil will bring back effective policies to halt deforestation in the Amazon. The 60 million Brazilians who voted for Lula may have voted to save the planet.
White paper: Protection of Jurisdictional Forests and Indigenous Peoples: Evidence from Acre and Mato Grosso REDD Early Movers Programs
Blog: Indigenous peoples need a seat at the climate table. Here’s why.
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