Brazil turns to cli­mate de­nier

With cruel tim­ing, the fight against global warm­ing lost a key bat­tle this week. ED ATKINS re­ports on the im­pli­ca­tions for the world on the rise of Brazil’s pres­i­den­tial fron­trun­ner Jair Bol­sonaro

The New European - - Agenda -

It is per­haps a cruel irony that, on the same day the IPCC re­leased its land­mark call for ur­gent ac­tion, Jair Bol­sonaro surged to vic­tory in the first round of Brazil’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. Although the leader of the far-right Par­tido So­cial Lib­eral did not achieve the 50% re­quired to win out­right, and will now have a run-off against Fer­nando Had­dad of the Par­tido dos Tra­bal­hadores (Work­ers’ Party), his rise has posed some painful and di­vi­sive ques­tions both within Brazil and be­yond.

Bol­sonaro has openly spo­ken of the need for a mil­i­tary coup and has a record of racist, misog­y­nis­tic and ho­mo­pho­bic views. He is often com­pared to Don­ald Trump in the US, and such par­al­lels can also be seen in the pro­tec­tion­ist eco­nomic doc­trine Bol­sonaro has adopted in this elec­tion, for in­stance a prom­ise to end the ba­nana trade with Ecuador to pro­tect Brazil­ian pro­duc­ers. His elec­toral suc­cess leaves Brazil at a cru­cial turn­ing point and there have al­ready been nu­mer­ous analy­ses of what it could mean for Brazil­ian pol­i­tics – but what could it mean for the en­vi­ron­ment?

De­spite Bol­sonaro’s cam­paign be­ing based on per­son­al­ity as much as pol­icy, it is pos­si­ble to find some rel­e­vant prom­ises – and they aren’t good news. For a start, he has pre­vi­ously said that, if elected, he would with­draw Brazil from the 2015 Paris Agree­ment on cli­mate change, ar­gu­ing that global warm­ing is noth­ing more than “green­house fa­bles”. Ul­ti­mately, his power to re­verse the de­ci­sion is lim­ited, how­ever, be­cause the deal was ap­proved via the Brazil­ian congress, which is cur­rently di­vided be­tween 30 par­ties, and Bol­sonaro would face the tricky task of con­vinc­ing a broad church of con­ser­va­tives.

Yet although he may be un­able to with­draw from the Paris frame­work, his elec­tion would still be a di­rect threat to the regime of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion in Brazil. His rise is a symp­tom of a wider po­lit­i­cal shift that has seen an align­ment be­tween the en­vi­ron­men­tal views of the far right and those of pow­er­ful po­lit­i­cal fac­tions in Brazil.

Although never di­rectly linked, Bol­sonaro’s en­vi­ron­men­tal poli­cies would likely be wel­comed by the so-called ru­ral­is­tas – a pow­er­ful al­liance of agribusiness and big landown­ers within the coun­try’s Se­nate and Cham­ber of Deputies. The ru­ral­ista fac­tion pre­vi­ously sup­ported the out­go­ing pres­i­dent Michel Te­mer and is in­fa­mous for its re­gres­sive en­vi­ron­men­tal agenda, which seeks to fur­ther defor­est the Ama­zon to make way for cat­tle farms, soy plan­ta­tions and the min­ing in­dus­try.

Bol­sonaro has called for the clo­sure of both Brazil’s en­vi­ron­ment agency (IBAMA), which mon­i­tors de­for­esta­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion, and its Chico Men­des In­sti­tute, which is­sues fines to neg­li­gent par­ties. This would elim­i­nate any form of over­sight of ac­tions that lead to de­for­esta­tion.

Bol­sonaro has also threat­ened to do away with the leg­isla­tive pro­tec­tions af­forded to en­vi­ron­men­tal re­serves and indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties. He has pre­vi­ously ar­gued that what he de­scribes as an “indige­nous land de­mar­ca­tion in­dus­try” must be re­stricted and re­versed, al­low­ing for farms and in­dus­try to en­croach into pre­vi­ously pro­tected lands.

By re­mov­ing these pro­tec­tive or­gans from the equa­tion, the mes­sage that Bol­sonaro is send­ing is clear: vast swathes of Brazil’s bi­o­log­i­cally di­verse and eco­log­i­cally im­por­tant land­scape will be opened up for de­vel­op­ment and ex­trac­tion. With the Brazil­ian soy in­dus­try prof­it­ing from the cur­rent trade war be­tween the US and China, it is highly likely that prom­ises of this po­ten­tial ex­pan­sion would be well re­ceived.

In the run-up to this elec­tion, fig­ures were re­leased which showed the rate of de­for­esta­tion in the Brazil­ian Ama­zon is con­tin­u­ing to climb. In Au­gust 2018, 545km² of for­est were cleared – three times more than the area de­for­ested the pre­vi­ous Au­gust. The world’s largest rain­for­est is in­te­gral to cli­mate change mit­i­ga­tion, so cut­ting back on de­for­esta­tion is an ur­gent global is­sue. Brazil, how­ever, is head­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

Any col­lec­tive relief at the far-right not win­ning the first round out­right may be short-lived. While the pre­vi­ous govern­ment of Te­mer rolled back en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions, a Bol­sonaro govern­ment will likely adopt a brazen antien­vi­ron­men­tal strat­egy. The sec­ond round of the elec­tion is soon to take place. In light of the

IPCC’S re­cent re­port, there is more rid­ing on it than ever.

Ed Atkins is a se­nior teach­ing as­so­ciate at the Uni­ver­sity of Bris­tol; this ar­ti­cle also ap­pears at the­con­ver­sa­tion. com

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.