Brazil will be the climate leader, says ex-minister Marina Silva

Marina Silva, a former environment minister and potential re-election candidate, delivered a message to the UN climate summit on Saturday: Brazil is back when it comes to protecting the Amazon rainforest, the largest in the world and crucial for limiting global warming.

The recent election of left-leaning President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva represents a potentially huge shift in how Brazil manages the forest compared to current President Jair Bolsonaro. Da Silva was due to attend the conference known as COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt next week.

Silva said da Silva’s coming to the top, months before he came to power on Jan. 1, was an indication of his administration’s commitment to protecting forests and playing a leading role in the fight against climate change. Da Silva was to meet several heads of delegations.

“Brazil will regain the leading role it had before in terms of climate, biodiversity,” said Silva, who spoke to reporters from the Brazilian Climate Hub.

Bolsonaro, who was elected in 2018, has pushed the development of the Amazon, both in his actions and in his rhetoric. Environmental agencies were weakened and he appointed forest managers from the agro-industrial sector. The sector opposes the creation of protected areas such as indigenous territories and pushes for the legalization of land plunder. The deforested area in the Brazilian Amazon reached a 15-year high from August 2020 to July 2021, according to official figures. Satellite monitoring shows that this year’s trend is on track to overtake last year.

After winning the October elections, da Silva, president between 2003 and 2010, promised to revise Bolsonaro’s policies and move towards a complete halt to deforestation, called “zero deforestation”.

It will be a huge task. While much of the world celebrates the policies that protect the rainforest in Brazil and other South American countries, there are myriad forces pushing for development, including among many people in the Amazonia. And Da Silva, although much more focused on environmental protection than Bolsonaro, has had a mixed record as president. Deforestation dropped dramatically in the decade after Da Silva came to power, with Marina Silva as environment minister. But during her second term, Da Silva began to cater to agribusiness interests, and in 2008 Marina Silva resigned.

In recent weeks, reports in Brazil have focused on a possible alliance between Brazil, Congo and Indonesia, home to the world’s largest rainforests. Given the nickname ‘OPEC of the Forests’, in reference to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the way they regulate oil production, the general idea would be for these three countries to coordinate their negotiating positions and practices. on forest management and biodiversity protection. . The proposal was originally launched at last year’s climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, according to reports.

When asked for details about an alliance, including whether it might be announced during the second week of the summit, Silva hesitated, making it clear that such an announcement was not his.

“We don’t want to be isolated in our forest protection,” she said more generally, adding that Brazil wanted forest management to be coordinated among “mega forest countries” but would not try to impose its will.

Silva won a congressional seat in the October election. A former childhood rubber sapper who worked closely with murdered environmentalist Chico Mendes, she has moral authority on environmental issues and is one of a handful of people being talked about as a possible minister in the government of da Silva.

While making it clear that she was not speaking on behalf of the president-elect, Silva shared details about what she thought would be part of the next administration. She said Brazil would not take the position that it “must be paid” to protect its forests, a position that Bolsonaro’s administration has taken.

Brazil would not undertake the kind of big energy projects it did in the past under the early terms of Da Silva, such as a large hydroelectric dam, but would instead focus on a shift to renewables like solar. Along the same lines, she said there would be an incentive to shift state oil company Petrobras from a focus on oil to a focus on renewables.

“We need to use these (oil) resources, which are still needed, to transition to other forms of energy and not perpetuate the model” of an oil-driven business, she said.

Silva said Brazil would participate in carbon offset markets, but needed “rigorous” oversight, which is arguably not currently the case. These carbon credits allow companies and countries to offset part of their carbon emissions by paying for activities that capture carbon, such as planting trees.

Silva also said she had proposed a government body to focus on climate change, which would presumably be in addition to the environment ministry. She said the idea would be to have tight regulation of climate change so that things can be dealt with in real time, such as greenhouse gas leaks or weaknesses in climate policy. She made a comparison to how governments always keep a close eye on inflation.

“The idea is to avoid climate inflation,” she said.

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