The global climate movement breathed a collective sigh of relief when Brazil’s left-wing former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva beat the incumbent Jair Bolsanaro by the slimmest of margins in Brazil’s run-off election yesterday.
During Lula’s previous presidency, from 2003-10, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, declined by three quarters. But under Bolsonaro, there has been a dramatic year-on-year increase of cleared, forested land. The latest satellite data shows that 3,988 square kilometres of forest – an area two and a half times the size of Greater London – was lost in the first six months of 2022 alone.
Deforestation has turned Brazil into the sixth-largest state emitter of carbon dioxide in the world. And last year, scientists from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research confirmed that the Amazon Rainforest is now a net emitter of emissions, largely due to fires deliberately started to clear land for agriculture that now releases more carbon than the remaining trees absorb.
Within minutes of his victory being announced, Lula promised to completely end deforestation in the rainforest. He has also pledged to create a ministry for native peoples, and to rebuild the country’s decimated environment agency.
“Humanity has just 84 months [up to 2030] to cut emissions and safeguard the 1.5°C target,” said Marcio Astrini, from the Brazilian Climate Observatory, after Lula’s victory was announced. “Brazil is part of both the problem and the solution.”
[See also: Lula’s victory in Brazil shows how authoritarianism can be defeated]