Brazil’s Election Heads Into Second Round With High Stakes for Amazon Rainforest, World Climate
Brazil’s tense presidential election has gone into a runoff that will take place on October 30, 2022. Environmentalists and experts globally are concerned about the Amazon rainforest should the far-right current president Jair Bolsonaro win re-election against Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, a left-wing candidate and former president of Brazil.
According to Bloomberg, Lula received 48.4% of votes and incumbent Bolsonaro received 43.2%. With neither candidate receiving a majority of over 50%, the election will head into a second round at the end of the month.
Many surveys predicted a win for Lula, but Bolsonaro received more support than expected during the votes on Sunday, October 2. More than 123 million Brazilians voted in the first round of the election, which had long lines from higher security measures and a higher than expected voter turnout.
Over 13,000 square miles of Amazon rainforest has been deforested under Bolsonaro, who has held the office since 2019. Bolsonaro has strongly supported agricultural and mining activities in the rainforest and has reduced funding for government agencies tasked with enforcing rainforest conservation measures. Under his leadership, the Amazon has been closing in on an irreversible tipping point from the damage of forest clearing and fires.
Lula was president of Brazil from 2003 to 2010. During his time as president of Brazil, Amazon deforestation saw a decrease, and Lula was a widely popular politician globally. But he was imprisoned in 2018 for a corruption scandal, of which he still maintains his innocence, the previous year. The scandal damaged his reputation, but he has promised to reinstate forest protections. For those frustrated with the far-right policies of Bolsonaro, Lula may also gain additional support.
“Everything that Lula has said, and even his track record, would indicate that he’s going to undo the brutal regressions of the Bolsonaro regime,” Christian Poirier, program director of the nonprofit Amazon Watch, told Vox.
The election has major implications for the Amazon and climate change. An analysis from Carbon Brief says that a win for Lula could reduce Amazon deforestation by 89% over the next decade. A win for Bolsonaro could lead to the Amazon reaching a point of no return.
“If he remains in power in 2023, no one should expect that Bolsonaro’s war against the Amazon, Indigenous people, environmental legislation, including the Forest Code, and science to monitor forests and land use [to] change,” Carlos Rittl, a senior policy advisor at Rainforest Foundation Norway, told Carbon Brief.
Brazil is ranked “insufficient” for its climate action by Climate Action Tracker. While it has a goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, the country’s long-term energy plans include expansion of fossil fuels. It is also on track for increased deforestation in the future, especially if Bolsonaro were to win re-election later this month.
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