Lula’s first year in office

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A Kayapó indigenous man looks at logs left behind by Brazilian lumberjacks.

An indigenous man observes the results of logging in the state of Pará in northern Brazil.Credit: Lucas Landau/Reuters

A pledge to eliminate deforestation by 2030 was one of the promises made by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was sworn in as Brazil’s president for a third time in January. Under his right-wing predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, deforestation in the Amazon reached its highest pace since 2006, with more than 13,000 square kilometers cleared in 2021. Illegal gold mining has led to deforestation of the indigenous Yanomami people of Roraima and Amazonas states. health and humanitarian crisis.

As the current president is widely known, under Lula’s administration, “there was a sense of crisis in the construction and restructuring of environmental policy,” said Nathalie Unterstel, director of the Talanoa Institute, a think tank based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. says. He focuses on monitoring and analyzing national climate policies. But Lula, a left-wing politician, often had to make concessions during his first year in office because Brazil’s federal legislative body, the National Congress, is controlled by a right-wing majority.

Observers still hope for more attention to environmental issues, but say changing direction will be difficult. Deforestation in the Amazon is expected to reach around 9,000 square kilometers in 2023, according to an analysis of satellite imagery by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) (see Amazon deforestation).

The bar graph shows that deforestation in Brazil's

Source: INPE TerraBrasilis dashboard, see go.nature.com/485uk9m

In October, Brazil renewed its climate change commitments to the United Nations. In 2016, Brazil proposed cutting emissions by 37% by 2025 and 43% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. It currently proposes to reduce emissions by 48% and 51% in 2025 and 2030, respectively.

In contrast, when Bolsonaro took power in 2019, his government maintained the emissions cuts proposed in 2016 but worked on higher estimates of emissions from 2005. is. Unterstel said Bolsonaro’s policies would have increased emissions compared to his original plan. Now, with the renewal of her pledge, the country is getting back on track on this front, she says.

But new policies are often ignored by loggers, so Brazil’s environmental authorities and government need to quickly find ways to combat illegal logging. INPE operates the real-time deforestation detection system DETER, which is based on observational data from sensors onboard the China-Brazilian Earth Resources Satellite CBERS-4 and India’s IRS-R2 satellite. Based on the images taken, INPE sends an alert to Brazil’s environmental agency IBAMA, enabling prompt law enforcement operations on the scene. DETER is currently being used to monitor two of his six biomes in Brazil. As well as the Amazon forest, DETER also monitors the Cerrado, a vast and diverse savanna that is home to the headwaters of South America’s largest rivers, but lacks many of the legal protections enjoyed by the Amazon.

According to DETER, the area of ​​the Cerrado that is subject to logging warnings is expected to reach an all-time high of approximately 7,600 square kilometers in 2023. This is estimated to be approximately 1,000 square kilometers more than in 2018, when INPE began recording alerts for this biome. . Such increases demonstrate the need for more efficient and far-reaching policies to protect the Cerrado, Unterstel said.

political disagreement

Parliament approved legislation in June that campaigners feared would weaken protections for both the environment and indigenous communities. This law stripped the Ministry of the Environment of responsibility for rural land registration and wastewater management, transferring these two areas to other ministries. The law also stripped the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs of its authority to demarcate the boundaries of Indigenous lands, giving it instead to the Ministry of Justice and Public Safety.

Pedro Jacobi, an environmental governance researcher at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, said Lula was forced to accept these changes. Jacobi said Lula would prefer to focus on important issues such as the economy and social planning rather than risk a confrontation in parliament. Bolsonaro’s right-wing Freedom Party alone will hold 96 of the 513 seats in the lower house of parliament after the 2022 elections.

This disagreement between the government and parliament extends particularly to Brazil’s energy strategy, which, in Unterstel’s view, is an elephant in the room for environmental policy. Despite having an Energy Transition Secretariat, the country does not have an energy transition policy, with “a rapid and “We need a complete and fair strategy,” she says. Make a plan to achieve it. ”

Aerial view of deforested land in the Amazon rainforest

Tropical rainforest destruction caused by fires in northern Brazil in 2019.Credit: Carl de Souza/AFP via Getty

In August, Brazil’s Ministry of Finance launched an ecosystem transformation plan as part of the country’s Growth Acceleration Program, known as PAC. This is a set of policies that encourage private and public investment in infrastructure to create jobs and reduce regional inequality. The plan focuses on green socio-economic development and includes the transition to green energy as one of its key plans. But “even if it includes an energy component, this plan is far from a proper energy transition policy,” said a senior public policy expert at the Climate Observatory, a coalition of civil society organizations focused on climate change policy. Sueli Araujo says: in Rio de Janeiro.

Most of the PAC’s investments in energy transition and security are likely to go to the oil and gas industry. Of the 565.4 billion reais (US$116 billion) earmarked for energy transition and security, 360.2 billion reais will be allocated to oil and gas. And the bulk of that money, R$324 billion, will go to fossil fuel production and development.

Debates over fossil fuels

According to Brazil’s Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels Agency, natural gas imports in 2022 have decreased by almost half compared to the previous year. However, oil imports increased by almost 70% over the same period, the highest since 2015.

Brazil itself was the world’s ninth largest oil producer and eighth largest consumer of petroleum products in 2022. Mr. Unterstel welcomes the emergence of a broader discussion on oil and energy transition in Brazil. “This is a difficult subject that we have to face,” she says. “Aggressive policies are being implemented to transform Brazil into the world’s fourth largest oil producer by the end of this century. Indeed, eight of the country’s 26 states are highly dependent on state revenues; “We can’t stop oil production overnight,” he said, but this won’t work because clean energy becomes cheaper and the world needs to phase out oil production and consumption. That’s likely to happen in the long run, she says.

Earlier this year, a debate over environmental licenses for exploratory oil wells in the Amazonas River estuary sparked tensions between government agencies. In May, IBAMA rejected a license application by state multinational oil company Petrobras, citing several technical flaws in its risk assessment.

The company appealed, and the permit now relies on an assessment by Brazil’s National Indigenous Foundation (an agency separate from the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples) of the impact of traffic to and from the oil platform on nearby communities. In early October, Petrobras was awarded a new environmental license to explore deep waters near Rio Grande do Norte state, sparking hopes that the same thing could soon happen in the Amazon estuary. arrived. In September, Mines and Energy Minister Alexandre Silveira called for the process to be further accelerated.

Overall picture and future direction

Brazil’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Marina Silva said in an interview that President Lula’s attitude was important in signaling a change of direction. Nature During September. “He said he wanted a completely clean energy infrastructure, and this has worked in the sense that Brazil aims to achieve zero deforestation in 2030,” Silva said. Brazil has also committed to tackling climate change and has sought to lead international discussions to guide change. Because what happens globally is reflected domestically, she added.

The causes of deforestation and its associated statistics are different in 2023 than in 2003, and the legal new National Plan of Action for the Prevention and Management of Deforestation in the Amazon (PPDAm) Faced with a challenge that did not exist, Carlos Noble, president of the Brazilian Panel on Climate Change (a group of experts modeled after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), is tasked with collecting and evaluating scientific information and making decisions on climate change. It says it is preparing a national assessment report and other documents dealing with climate change issues. Something unique to Brazil.

Launched in 2004 during Marina Silva’s first term as Brazil’s environment minister, PPCDAm oversees the monitoring and prosecution of environmental crimes and the management of public lands in the Brazilian Amazon. Between 2004 and her 2012, he managed to reduce deforestation in this biome by 83%. In June, the Brazilian government announced the latest version of the program.

“Even though organized crime and drug trafficking are rapidly increasing in the Amazon, the rate of decline in deforestation is still comparable to 2005,” Noble said. The good thing about his revised PPCDAm, he says, is that “there is a significant emphasis on the sustainable development of the Amazon.”

That’s important for lasting effects, Unterstell says. “Without economic alternatives, the results will not be sustainable in the long term and law enforcement will be flawed,” she says. “Those involved in deforestation today must be able to make a just transition to a viable forest conservation economy.”

when Nature Mr. Silva asked Mr. Silva about Brazil’s seemingly contradictory positions on investing in fossil fuels and reducing deforestation, saying, “Everyone wants to solve the fossil fuel problem, but unfortunately humanity is still living without fossil fuels.” China won’t be able to give up these sources anytime soon – and neither will India. Even the European Union, while doing its best, is experiencing a very complex situation in the face of this crisis. doing. [Ukraine] war. It’s important to look at the big picture. ”

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