The results of the October 30 presidential election runoff in the world’s third-most populous democracy means that Brazil is back as a positive player in the global climate action debate.
Former and newly elected president Lula da Silva believes in fighting climate change and protecting the critical Amazon rainforest. He replaces Latin American Trump imitator Jair Bolsonaro, who spent his presidential term implementing policies to increase carbon emissions and worsen environmental injustice, including record-setting rates of deforestation.
Da Silva took 50.9% of the vote in his narrow second-round win over Bolsonaro. “It’s a significant change, I can’t emphasize how much things will be different in [Brazil] with [da Silva’s] election,” said James Green, professor of Latin American History at Brown University. Green cited changes in social welfare policy, more public inclusion in decision-making, a more transparent government, and “a return to policies to save the Amazon.” The Amazon rainforest contains an estimated 25% of global terrestrial biodiversity, and plays a crucial role in global climate stabilization by storing billions of tons of carbon and releasing billions of tons of water each year. The international group Human Rights Watch underscored the potential for a dramatic improvement in environmental justice in Brazil due to the election of da Silva. Among other key changes, the group pointed to the opportunity and need to put a stop to violence against indigenous peoples and environmental advocates during the illegal appropriation of land for deforestation. These are reforms which da Silva has pledged to pursue.