Amazon will be 'priority' for incoming Brazilian president, says former minister

The world will now wait to see if promises are delivered, as Emma Murphy reports

Brazil’s incoming president will prioritise the Amazon rainforest after years of deforestation, his former foreign secretary has said.

Celso Amorim, who served for Lula da Silva during his first stint as president between 2003 and 2010, told ITV News “Lula is back, reason is back” ahead of his inauguration on Sunday.

Mr da Silva said this week that Amazon activist Marina Silva will be the country´s minister of environment, suggesting he will crack down on illegal deforestation even if it means running afoul of powerful agribusiness interests.

This would be a sharp turnaround from the policies of the outgoing president, Jair Bolsonaro, who pushed for development in the Amazon and whose environment minister resigned after national police began investigating whether he was aiding the export of illegally cut timber.

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon, the world's largest rainforest and a key to fighting climate change, reached a 15-year high in the year ending in July 2021.

But Mr Amorim said Mr da Silva knows the rainforests importance to the world.

Brazil's President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his newly-named Environment Minister Marina Silva. Credit: AP

“A big priority also will be climate change, combatting global warming, because this is a threat not only to Brazil, it’s a threat to the world,” he told ITV News.

“And we know of the importance of the Amazon, this is actually an asset that we have to contribute to the world in a crucial moment and that’s what Lula will do, that’s what he did.

“At a time of Lula’s government… the deforestation diminished – now he will be trying to do that even further because in the last few years we almost lost what we had in terms of preservation.”

Both Mr da Silva and Ms Silva attended the recent UN climate conference in Egypt, where he promised cheering crowds “zero deforestation” in the Amazon by 2030.

Jair Bolsonaro was criticised for his approach to the Amazon. Credit: AP

“There will be no climate security if the Amazon isn't protected,” he said.

Mr da Silva also said the name of the ministry Ms Silva will lead will be changed to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.

By contrast, Mr Bolsonaro froze the creation of protected areas, weakened environmental agencies and placed forest management under control of the agriculture ministry.

He also championed agribusiness, which opposes the creation of protected areas such as indigenous territories and pushes for the legalisation of land grabbing.

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