Lula’s COP27 visit seen as restoring Brazil’s climate credibility
By Jake Spring
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (Reuters) – The election of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as Brazil’s next president is already boosting the country’s credibility at this year’s U.N. climate negotiations, with the left-wing leader to participate in COP27 in Egypt on Wednesday.
Lula defeated right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who presided over mounting destruction of the Amazon rainforest and refused to hold the 2019 climate summit originally planned for Brazil.
In his first international trip after being elected Oct. 31, Lula plans to deliver a speech with the message that “Brazil is back” as a leader confronting climate change, two of his advisors told Reuters.
Lula’s sweeping plan promises to ramp up environmental law enforcement and create green jobs that do not come at the expense of the rainforest. Lula’s team also worked to secure a jungle conservation alliance announced on Monday between the three largest rainforest nations – Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Three Brazilian diplomats told Reuters the country was in a stronger position to negotiate at the U.N. talks, being held this year in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh, since other countries know they will soon have a Lula government behind them.
“Now, with this perspective of a more favorable view of the issue by the next Brazilian government, we would be even more empowered to interact with different interlocutors,” one diplomat said.
The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to speak with the media.
Brazil’s negotiating positions have remained largely unchanged in recent decades, regardless of who has been president, and Lula is likely to make the same diplomatic demands as his predecessor, the diplomats said. That includes pushing for rich nations with high greenhouse gas emissions to pay poor nations for historic damage the climate.
Colombia’s Environment Minister Susana Muhamad said Lula’s election would allow for renewed regional cooperation among Amazon rainforest nations to tackle deforestation, a major contributor to climate change.
“There is a new political context in Latin America,” Muhamad said. “We have to work on a communal policy in the Amazon.”
She said Colombia and its own newly elected President Gustavo Petro support Lula’s proposal for a summit of Amazon countries and developed nations interested in conservation.
Lula environmental advisor Izabella Teixeira said she felt the mood about Brazil has shifted at COP27 from previous summits.
“When I come to COP and meet people after the election of President Lula, there is hope,” she said. “People are so happy because Brazil will be back.”
Teixeira said Lula has received many requests for bilateral meetings, but none could be made public due to security concerns. A possible meeting with the U.S. delegation led by Climate Envoy John Kerry is under discussion.
Lula will also meet with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and has been invited to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, she said.
Last week, sources told Reuters that, at COP27, Lula plans to offer to host a future U.N. climate summit and to announce creation of a national climate authority to oversee all government work to address global warming.
Lula also plans to work with state governments in Brazil to combat deforestation. His first meeting on Wednesday will be with six Brazilian state governors from the Amazon region who are also at COP27, according to his public schedule.
On Thursday, Lula will meet with Brazilian civil society groups and indigenous representatives. He departs on Friday for Portugal.
Marina Silva, a former environment minister under Lula and an advisor on his campaign, said his coming to COP shows the high importance he places on climate.
“The big message is his presence here,” she told reporters at the summit.
(This story has been refiled to correct spelling of Egyptian president’s name in 15th paragraph)
(Reporting by Jake Spring; Additional reporting by Chiara Rodriquez in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and Lisandra Paraguassu in Brasilia; Editing by Katy Daigle and David Gregorio)