Discussions about combating climate change and environmental degradation in Brazil is becoming an integral part of the nation’s presidential race. The two candidates leading the polls in the upcoming election, according to data amalgamated by the Council of the Americas, are incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former president who served from 2003 to 2011.
As in many other nations, industry in Brazil contributes to environmental degradation through the emission of greenhouse gases and deforestation. Efforts to combat the destruction of the environment have come to have a sense of urgency in recent years, with Reuters reporting that in 2021, deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest hit a 15-year high. Climate Watch currently ranks Brazil as the 6th greatest emitter of greenhouse gases among the nations of the world, after China, the US, India, Russia, and Indonesia.
The New York Times reports that one of Lula’s plans for a greener Brazil includes investing in healthier agricultural practices that would protect Brazil’s environment and the health of its people. While he has not yet submitted a complete environmental plan, his party has discussed using agroforestry, the practice of inter-planting trees and crops, to combat deforestation, according to Reuters. Lula also made a campaign promise to appoint an indigenous cabinet member, as the indigenous people of Brazil are among the top advocates for environmental conservation.
Activists are not satisfied with their incumbent president’s efforts to combat climate change, the Economist reports. During his presidency, the enforcement of environmental protections laws, including fines for breaking such protections, were weakened. These practices contributed to the peak in the deforestation of the Amazon.
However, like Bolsonaro, Lula does not have a clean record in terms of protecting the environment. The New York Times reports that while he did take some measures to combat deforestation as president, he opposed legislation intended to phase out the usage of fossil fuels in Brazil.
Izabella Teixeira, one of the climate ministers who served during Lula’s presidency, spoke with The New York Times about his candidacy and his stance on climate change. Teixeira said that she has observed a much greater focus on protecting Brazil’s environment in Lula’s speeches and campaign promises during this election cycle than in his previous campaigns.
“He is looking at it with a modern mind set,” said Teixeira. “It is one thing to correct the past, to undo mistakes. It is another thing to affirm new paths.”
General elections in Brazil, during which the President, Vice President and members of the National Congress will be elected, are set to take place in October of this year and it is still uncertain which candidate will win.