While he is not yet officially invested as President of Brazil, Lula wants to make it his mission to sweep away Jair Bolsonaro’s four years in terms of environmental policy and deforestation.
Upon his re-election as head of Brazil on Sunday, October 30, Lula placed the environmental issue at the center of the debate. He promised to preserve the green lung of the world again. The former left-wing head of state will have to catch up with the undermining work of his predecessor, who propelled deforestation to dizzying levels under his mandate.
Invited to participate in COP 27 in Egypt, Lula da Silva wants to tell the world that Brazil is back in the climate negotiations and that his country will stop being the environmental pariah it has become during the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro.
According to environmental activists, Lula’s unique position in Egypt is almost an advantage: “Even if he is not going to COP 27 as president of Brazil, he is going to play the game: to show and reinforce the commitments of his country after his victory speech“, commented Carolina Grassi, Brazilian doctoral student at the Center for International and Community Studies and Research at the University of Aix-Marseille and specialist in the Amazon.
The new Brazilian president will indeed have a lot to do to fill the gaping void that his far-right predecessor, through his disastrous mandate, dangerously helped to create.
For four years, Bolsonaro cut funding to state environmental agencies and encouraged deforestation of the Amazon for the benefit of agribusiness and criminal activity.
Lula intends to end his predecessor’s “policy of devastation”. According to him, Brazil is “ready to once again play a leading role in the fight against climate change. Brazil and the planet need a living Amazon”.
A statement that seems to convince many heads of state or foreign ministers.
By playing the card of protecting the Amazon, Lula seizes an ecological symbol that worries the Western world. Thus, as soon as Lula won, Norway, the primary funder of the protection of the Amazon rainforest, announced that it was restoring its envelope of 487 million euros that it had frozen since Jair Bolsonaro came to power in January 2019.
“The nightmare is finally over. Lula must act firmly and quickly on the environment”, reacted the NGO collective Climate Observatory.
If environmental legislation is followed to the letter during the coming term, deforestation could be reduced by around 90% by the end of the decade, Carbon Brief experts have calculated.
The platform assessed the consequences of the application of the “Forest Code”, a 1965 text which requires landowners to maintain a certain proportion of forest on their plot and to restore land that has suffered illegal deforestation, explains Carbon Brief.
The international community, therefore, awaits the new president at the turn because the forest is not only valuable for Brazilians. Currently soiled, in particular by gold diggers and cut down mainly to set up cattle breeding, the Amazon plays an essential role in the rainfall system of South America. It’s a bit like local natural air conditioning. The moisture produced by the forest is transported by air to northern Argentina, for example, 1,300 km further south. A rather fabulous phenomenon called “flying rivers”.
During Lula’s first year in office, in 2003, deforestation in the Amazon also reached an all-time high. Some 27,772 square kilometers of forest had been razed, twice as much as the 13,038 square kilometers under Bolsonaro in 2021. But the Lula government then managed to gradually reduce this deforestation to historically low levels. In 2010, when he left power, it was four times lower than in 2003.
So this return to favor of President Lula gives hope to defenders of the Amazon because his re-election “would prevent the disappearance of 75,960 square kilometers of the Amazonian forest by 2030, an area equivalent to that of Panama”, indicates a recent study carried out by researchers at the University of Oxford.