Brazil to play lead role on climate change policy: Environment minister

President Lula da Silva. took office pledging to stop deforestation in the Amazon, a vital biome to curb climate change. PHOTO: AFP

BRASILIA - Brazil will not shy away from playing a leading role in addressing climate change and the impending emergency the world is facing, new environment minister Marina Silva said on Wednesday.

Silva announced the creation of an extraordinary secretary to end deforestation and plans to set up a climate authority within the administration of President Lula da Silva.

Lula took office on Sunday pledging to stop deforestation in the Amazon, a vital biome to curb climate change. He quickly revoked policies of his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro who eased environmental protection and allowed the rate of deforestation to surge to a 15-year-high on his watch.

“The environmental agenda was destroyed by the previous government,” Silva said in a speech as she took office.

“Climate change policy was dismantled to the point that Brazil became an environmental pariah in the world,” she said.

Silva, the daughter of Amazon rubber tappers, became a prominent environmentalist and held the same ministerial position for five years during Lula’s first and second terms.

She oversaw a significant drop in deforestation at the time, a task she will have to tackle again in helping Lula to fulfil his campaign pledge to stop illegal deforestation.

The minister announced the creation of a green economy department in her ministry, but said the transition to a low-carbon economy will not happen overnight.

“It won’t happen by magic. We will place the pillars, but we will need resources and partnerships,” she said in reference to international assistance that the Lula government is seeking.

Silva said restoring Brazil’s prominent role as a environmental leader will help the South American trade bloc Mercosur conclude its free trade deal with the European Union, which had been held up by concerns over uncontrolled Amazon deforestation.

Earlier this week, Norway, the major donor to the Amazon Fund, said the initiative for backing forest protection had been re-activated now that Lula was back in office.

“Brazil’s new President has signaled a clear ambition to stop deforestation by 2030,” Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment Espen Barth Eide said in a statement on Monday announcing revival of the fund, which is aimed at fighting removal of vegetation in the Amazon.

“He has reinstated strategies to make this happen, and appointed ministers with substantial knowledge and expertise in the area,” Barth Eide said.

The fund still holds about 3.4 billion reais (S$834.3 million).

It has been frozen since August 2019, Bolsonaro abolished its governing board and action plans.

New environment minister Marina Silva with President Lula da Silva during the presentation of the ministers nominated for his government at the transition government building in Brazil, on Dec 29, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

In 2008 in an earlier term as president, Lula set up the fund to receive international contributions to Brazil’s efforts to stop deforestation. It receives payments only after deforestation is reduced; the funds are then spent on more such initiatives.

Norway initially donated US$1.2 billion (S$1.6 billion), with Germany also contributing.

Among his first decisions after taking office, Lula signed a decree reinstating the governing board of the Amazon Fund, with broad representation from civil society and other stakeholders. REUTERS

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