Presidential in Brazil: we explain to you why the return of Lula represents hope for the Amazon

After four years in power of Jair Bolsonaro, Lula’s election is seen as “a good signal” for the planet. The figure of the Brazilian left, for example, intends to put an end to the “policy of devastation” of his predecessor.Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, during a meeting on sustainable development in Manaus (Brazil), August 31, 2022. (MICHAEL DANTAS / AFP)

“Brazil and the planet need a living Amazon.” As soon as he was re-elected as head of Brazil on Sunday October 30, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva placed the environmental issue at the center of the debate. According to him, Brazil is “ready to play the leading role again in the fight against climate change”. A statement that seems to convince many heads of state or foreign ministers. His victory is one for the “climate”, declared the head of German diplomacy, Annalena Baerbock, Monday, October 31. Ursula Von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said she was keen to work with him on the “urgent challenges” of climate and free trade.

>> REPORT. In Brazil, with those who fight against deforestation by reforesting

Can Lula’s return to the presidency of Brazil save the Amazon? It’s urgent. From the start of Jair Bolsonaro’s mandate in 2018, deforestation jumped to reach today its highest level since 2008, according to the journal Nature (in English). In three years, from 2018 to 2021, more than 34,000 km2 of forest have disappeared, “an area larger than Belgium”, underlines the specialized site Carbon Brief. A Nature study in 2021 even concluded that the forest had become a source of CO2, instead of ensuring its role as a “carbon sink” by absorbing it. “Deforestation and forest degradation reduce the ability of the Amazon to act as a carbon sink,” the authors wrote. Among the causes of this degradation, forests burned to make way for livestock and agriculture.

He promised to reduce deforestation

Climate change is also a key factor: temperatures during the dry season have risen nearly 3°C compared to the pre-industrial era, almost three times more than the global average. The combination of all these factors “calls into question the ability of tropical forests to sequester large volumes of CO2 derived from fossil fuels in the future”, notes Scott Denning, of the University of Colorado, quoted in the journal Nature.

“It is imperative to defend the Amazon from the policy of devastation put in place by the current government”, promises Lula’s program. If environmental legislation is followed to the letter during the coming term, deforestation could be reduced by around 90% by the end of the decade, Carbon Brief experts have calculated. The platform assessed the consequences of the application of the “Forest Code”, a 1965 text which requires landowners to maintain a certain proportion of forest on their plot and to restore land that has suffered illegal deforestation, explains Carbon Brief.

Even if total compliance with this text seems difficult to achieve, experts are optimistic when analyzing Lula’s previous record, from 2003 to 2011. reduce deforestation by 80%”, noted Plinio Sist, ecologist and director of the forest research unit at CIRAD, on franceinfo. An assessment which the former president also welcomes in his program. And that he promises to reproduce.

He could revive the Amazon Fund

Lula’s return to power is therefore “a very good signal” for the planet, opines economist Catherine Aubertin, specialist in environmental policies, “Bolsonaro has cut off all state environmental bodies, she laments. Whether it is the environmental police who could no longer impose a fine or the Institute for the Conservation of Biodiversity who no longer had a say. Catherine Aubertin therefore hopes that the new government will put in place consultation structures between ministries, federated states and civil society and welcomes the announcement of the creation of a ministry for indigenous peoples.

The Amazon Fund, which finances projects to preserve the primary forest, was also blocked. “This blocking of President Bolsonaro deprived the defenders of the Amazon of a billion dollars”, recalls the economist. The return to power of Lula nevertheless seems to open the way to a renewal of this fund. Norway, which had suspended its aid during the term of the former president, announced that it was ready to pay it again. The Scandinavian country is one of the main contributors to this fund considered essential by experts, with around 1.2 billion dollars paid since its creation in 2008.

Catherine Aubertin, however, relativizes hopes for the protection of the Amazon, recalling that ecology is not the priority of President Lula, focused on “the fight against hunger”. According to her, in Brazil the environmental symbol that the Amazon represents is not as strong as internationally. “It’s a remote region, it’s 10% of GDP. Less than 10% of the population,” she says.