Brazil is seeking to return to the forefront of global climate negotiations in what is likely to be the most visible foreign policy shift under President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
The 77-year-old leader made the change clear by choosing the Conference Nations Conference on Climate Change in Egypt as his first international trip after defeating President Jair Bolsonaro last month. Even if Lula takes office on January 1, she will present her vision of the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest and the focus of international outrage with Bolsonaro, at COP27 on Wednesday morning.
“One of the main things I am going to do is to put Brazil back at the center of international geopolitics,” Lula said last week in Brasilia. “I will have more talks with world leaders in Egypt in a single day than Bolsonaro has had in four years.”
During the campaign, Lula promised to reduce rainforest deforestation to zero and protect the indigenous peoples who live there, in stark contrast to Bolsonaro, who has drawn international disapproval for loosening legislation and watchdog agencies designed to protect the Amazon.
The leftist leader has also said he will take over commitments volunteers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In exchange, he will ask rich nations to commit more funds to protect not just the Amazon but all remaining tropical forests, most of them in Brazil, Indonesia and the Congo. A key step will be the reactivation of the Amazon Fund maintained by rich nations such as Norway and Germany, which was frozen in 2019 when Bolsonaro changed the country’s government.
Lula is also creating new cabinet posts to handle environmental issues. In addition to an environment minister, he will appoint a minister for indigenous peoples and a special climate envoy, a position similar to that of John Kerry in the US. Some of them may be announced during his visit to Egypt. .
Brazil needs to leave behind the global distrust of the last four years, according to Helder Barbalho, governor of the northern state of Pará, who will also be present at COP27.
“We have to regain credibility, if only to demand more vehemently compensation from industrialized countries and their players,” he said.
Lula’s return to power paves the way for a new and constructive start in climate discussions between Brazil and the world, and especially Europe, an official from a Western European country has said. Another European official said that Bolsonaro’s re-election would have been a catastrophe for the global environmental agenda.
However, despite the change in tone, preventing deforestation of the Amazon will not be easy for Lula due to the geographical challenges of a huge and isolated land, roughly half the size of the US, difficult to police and full of violent gangs with a government facing fiscal restrictions.
United States, China, Russia
At the same time, Lula will also have to calibrate his policies towards the US, China and Russia at a time of volatile relations between the world’s largest economies. The complexity of the world scenario leaves little room for mistakes by the new Brazilian president.
Maintaining those relations will require a lot of diplomacy on the part of Brazil, as Western officials say privately that they hope Lula will take some distance from Russia, or at least refrain from saying that Ukraine shares the blame for the war, as he told the Time magazine in May.
His comments on Ukraine drew attention in European capitals, with a senior European official saying before the election that Lula he urgently needs to change his lenses and abandon “third world visions” if he returns to power. Lula’s ties to Russia and China will complicate his push for a UN Security Council reform that seeks to include Brazil as a permanent member.
Another European official downplayed Lula’s comments on Ukraine, saying they reflect Brazil’s historical reluctance to take sides and its policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations.
In addition, as part of his international agenda, Lula intends to promote the Brics group of the main emerging countries that currently make up Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The plan, according to his adviser Celso Amorim, is to include Argentina to “increase the weight of Latin America” in the association.
Lula’s return is also good news for efforts to revive the trade deal between the EU and Mercosur, a bloc that includes Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. The deal was signed in 2019 but has since stalled amid European reluctance.
Lula made it clear that he is ready to resume the EU-Mercosur deal and needs a quick victory on foreign affairs, so there is reason to be optimistic, a senior EU official said, adding that it will not be easy because the deal is has become even more unpopular in countries like France.