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Lula's biggest challenge is to save the Amazon. How does he plan on doing it?

BrazilEdited By: Anamica SinghUpdated: Jan 02, 2023, 01:22 PM IST
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The motorcade of Brazil's President elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is seen near the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, January 1, 2023. Photograph:(Reuters)

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Lula, in his speech, promised to reverse the damage done to the environment by the previous government. Terming the matter as “inspired by fascism", Lula said Bolsonaro had left “terrible ruins” among Brazil’s institutions.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was sworn in as the new Brazil president on Sunday, promised in his speech to stop the destruction being carried out in the Amazon rainforest, a topic that became a subject of discussion during the tenure of Jair Bolsonaro. 

Under Bolsonaro, the world's most important rainforest endured severe deforestation. Lula promised to reverse and ultimately end all of that. Lula has taken over as president for a second time twenty years after his first inauguration. 

Protecting the country's rainforests was a major point of Lula's election campaign. It is expected to be the highlight of his tenure and the world is eagerly waiting to see how he tackles the biggest environmental disaster on hand. 

Lula, in his speech, promised to reverse the damage done to the environment by the previous government. Terming the matter as “inspired by fascism", Lula said Bolsonaro had left “terrible ruins” among Brazil’s institutions.

“The world expects Brazil to once again become a leader in tackling the climate crisis and an example of a socially and environmentally responsible country,” he said.

Deforestation of the Amazon increased massively under Bolsonaro. He scaled back environmental protections making commercial exploitation of Indigenous lands easier. This led to a 60 per cent increase in annual average deforestation rates during his presidency, compared with the previous four years. The devastation is at such a scale that some parts of the forest release a lot more carbon dioxide than they absorb.

Amazon activist Marina Silva has been names the environment and climate change minister in Lula's cabinet. He has also appointed Sonia Guajajara, an indigenous woman, as Brazil’s first minister of indigenous peoples. Together the two will work to bring down deforestation of the Amazon. 

Notably, deforestation saw a huge drop during Marina's tenure as environment minister during Lula's first term from 2003-2010. She later resigned from her position due to some differences with Lula, but backed him for president this year.

“Together with our mobilized society, we face the great challenge of rescuing and updating the lost socio-environmental agenda,” she said last week.

Steps planned

Lula's government has said that it will repeal policies that led to an increase in gold mining in the Amazon. Obstructions to environmental fines will also be removed since the fines acted as a huge deterrent for unlawful practices in the Amazon. Federal agencies responsible for protecting the rainforest will be bolstered and a federal police unit to investigate the criminal gangs wreaking havoc in the forest will be created.

The Amazon Fund, a conservation programme to stop deforestation designed by Marina Silva, will be reactivated after being frozen in 2019. The programme rewards efforts to cut deforestation. Both Norway and Germany have shown willingness to unfreeze their contributions to Brazil through the Amazon Fund.

Norway's embassy in Brasilia told Associated Press that the fund “can be opened quickly to support the government’s action plan once the Brazilian government reinstates the governing structure of the fund.”

At COP27 climate talks in Egypt, Lula promised “zero deforestation” in the Amazon.  “There will be no climate security if the Amazon isn’t protected,” he said.

Brazil’s tribal groups a ministry in government for the first time. That’s also seen as a key factor in the protection of the Amazon as much of the forest lies within areas designated as indigenous lands but which are often preyed upon by criminal gangs who run mining and logging operations or open the forest up to grazing.

Meanwhile, Sonia Guajajara's appointment gives Brazil’s tribal groups a face in government for the first time. Since much of the Amazon forest lies within areas designated as indigenous lands, this decision can prove highly productive to reverse damage. Criminal gangs who run mining and logging operations or open the forest up to grazing often target these lands.

(With inputs from agencies)

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