The reelection of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as president of Brazil was one of the most exciting and hopeful happenings in the world of climate change in 2022. Lula ran on a platform that promised to reign in miners, land grabbers, and illegal loggers who are rapidly destroying the Amazon, the largest rainforest on the planet. He assumes the presidency tomorrow.
The World Meteorological Organization explains the important role of the Amazon in sequestering carbon:
Carbon sinks such as the carbon uptake by the terrestrial biosphere are a vital regulator of climate change by removing one quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by humans.
If sinks such as the Amazon become net emitters, because of deforestation and fires, as well as a result of climate change, there is the potential for this to become a “tipping point” in the climate system.
Tropical forests were considered as a sink for CO2 until now, but changes in temperature and precipitation patterns that create severe environment for vegetation that can turn them to carbon source. About one-quarter of the 2030 mitigation pledged by countries in their initial nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement is expected to come from land-based mitigation options.
In a 202l global study, Globescan found that more than half the people participating in the study believed deforestation of the Amazon to be a very serious problem.
During the term of Lula’s predecessor, deforestation increased by 60%, with sections of the Amazon now emitting more carbon dioxide than they absorb. As president, Lula will have to deal with “sprawling violent criminal networks that resort to fraud to introduce products tainted by unlawful practices into global supply chains.”
Heriberto Araujo writes in today’s New York Times For Lula and the World, the Tough Job of Saving the Amazon Begins:
The incoming administration has signaled that the new president will repeal policies that expanded gold mining in the Amazon and obstructed the system for environmental fines, an important deterrent. It plans to bolster the federal agencies tasked with protecting the rainforest and to create a federal police unit to investigate the sophisticated criminal gangs behind the looting of the jungle.
It will also reactivate the Amazon Fund, a conservation program that has been central to curbing deforestation but was frozen in 2019. The fund has $600 million that can be used to finance the country’s main environmental protection agency, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, and other agencies.
Al Jazeera reports that Lula has chosen Marina Silva as the cabinet minister tasked with taking on the complex and challenging job of halting deforestation. The powerful agribusiness sector is also being targeted for its misuse of the Amazon.
Silva, who attended November’s COP29 alongside Lula, has pledged that “Brazil will return to the protagonist role it previously had when it comes to climate, to biodiversity.”
“At the time, Marina Silva was perhaps a little too extremist, but people from the agro sector also had some extremists,” said Neri Geller, a lawmaker of the agribusiness caucus. “I think she matured and we matured. We can make progress on important agenda items for the sector while preserving [the environment] at the same time.”
Lula’s cabinet picks indicate that he will seek to navigate the reality of a powerful conservative opposition while working to make good on his promises to pursue environmental and economic justice.
Lula on Thursday also announced Sonia Guajajara will serve as Brazil’s first minister of Indigenous peoples, who have experienced mass violence due to the destruction of the Amazon.