Lula wins presidential election in Brazil:

Momentum for change in the Amazon

Putting an end to deforestation and the violence in the forest must be at the top of Lula's agenda when he takes office. Rainforest Foundation Norway calls on support from the international community to ensure Lula's success.

By Kristin Rødland Buick.

The election of Lula da Silva as Brazil's new president offers much-needed hope and momentum for protecting the invaluable Amazon rainforest and the people who live there. But the new president has a mammoth task ahead in a challenging political climate.

“The past four years have left the Brazilian Amazon in a precarious state. It is of utmost importance that Lula puts stopping deforestation and ending the violence in the territories at the very top of his urgent to-do list, says Toerris Jaeger, Executive Director of Rainforest Foundation Norway.

Support from the international community

Jaeger calls for support from the international community: “We all depend upon the world's largest rainforest to avoid a climate catastrophe, and to save the world’s precious biological diversity. The international community must support Brazil in swiftly rebuilding the country's broken environmental institutions, end the violence and strengthen its challenged democracy."

The election of Lula da Silva as Brazil's new president could bring the Amazon rainforest back from the edge of its tipping point. Deforestation increased by 73% under President Bolsonaro due to his dismantling of environmental policies and institutions. In stark contrast, deforestation was reduced by 68% under 'Lula's rule between 2003 and 2010.

Under Lula's previous terms Brazil established an action plan to combat deforestation in the Amazon, a national policy on climate change, and the Amazon Fund. Lula expanded the areas of demarcated indigenous lands and created more protected areas than in any other period.

“Lula’s previous government substantially reduced deforestation, but he has a more difficult starting point now, and he needs international leaders, businesses, and investors to step up to make this happen again urgently,” Jaeger continues.

Violence and impunity must end

Lula has committed to restoring the policies and measures that drastically reduced deforestation during his last administration. He has also made several promises to put a stop to the rampant illegal mining and to protect and expand the territorial rights of indigenous and other traditional communities.

Violence has increased catastrophically in the past year, with Indigenous communities and environmental defenders being particularly affected. Perpetrators go mostly unpunished.

“The violence must end and the safety of Indigenous communities restored in line with international human rights obligations. The impunity for criminal acts must be something of the past”, says Toerris Jaeger.

Some of Lulas promises in the election campaign could cause potential problems.

“If fulfilled, Lula’s promises could reduce deforestation of the Amazon by as much as 90% and secure the protection of Indigenous peoples, who are instrumental in guarding the forest. Since he has also advocated for the need to expand infrastructure, a potential threat to the forest, international support should be provided based on concrete results in reducing deforestation. This creates incentives for Amazon-friendly policies,” says Jaeger.

Unfreezing the Amazon Fund

Lula has committed to unfreezing the Amazon Fund, which was established under his presidency and is the primary mechanism for providing international financial support to forest protection in Brazil. The fund was frozen when Bolsonaro’s government unilaterally closed the steering committee.

“We expect Lula to quickly re-establish the Amazon Fund and that the international community rewards Brazil once they reduce deforestation,” says Jaeger.

Calling for a peaceful transition

Lula’s inauguration is not until the 1st of January, and many fear increased violence and illegal activities in the last weeks of impunity for forest crime under Bolsonaro.

“It is vital that the international community contributes to a peaceful transition of power by demanding that the current government refrains from using the next months to advance anti-environmental agendas,” says Jaeger.

Anders Haug Larsen

Advocacy and Alliances Director
(+47) 932 17 626
andershl@rainforest.no