LatinNews Daily - 23 April 2021

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BRAZIL: Bolsonaro’s climate speech met with scepticism

On 22 April, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro took part in the Leaders Summit on Climate organised by the US, during which he said Brazil will end illegal deforestation by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050.


Bolsonaro’s speech at yesterday’s summit was eagerly anticipated as a measure of how willing he and his government are to bend to international pressure on tackling climate change, which in the case of Brazil focuses on efforts to end deforestation in the Amazon. The contents of the speech show that Bolsonaro has recognised the necessity of embracing a rhetoric aligned with global preoccupations on the environment; however, whether this rhetoric will translate into action remains very much in doubt.

  • As well as the promises on illegal deforestation and carbon neutrality, Bolsonaro spoke of targets for emissions reduction and of increasing funding for environmental law enforcement efforts. He assured that Brazil is committed to “the construction of a global environmental agenda”, while repeating that developed nations bear most of the responsibility for global emissions and that Brazil should be compensated for its conservation efforts. 
  • In a press briefing after Bolsonaro’s speech, Environment Minister Ricardo Salles echoed the points made by the president, reiterating the vague pledge to double funding for environmental enforcement agencies and insisting on the need for foreign funds to help Brazil’s environmental efforts.
  • Bolsonaro’s discourse was met with widespread scepticism amongst environmentalists, who question how he proposes to reach these climate targets considering that his administration has actively pursued an anti-environmental agenda so far. “Bolsonaro spent half of his speech asking the world for money for previous governments’ environmental achievements, the same ones he has been trying to undo from the day he was sworn in,” Marcio Astrini, executive secretary for the Observatório do Clima, a network of environmental NGOs, said.
  • Other NGOs similarly accused Bolsonaro of distorting facts and making claims completely out of step with the political reality in Brazil. Meanwhile, opposition lawmakers outright accused the president of lying in his speech.     

Looking Ahead: Bolsonaro’s stated commitments are unlikely to allay international pressure on his government to reduce deforestation. In a press conference yesterday, US climate czar John Kerry said Bolsonaro’s comments at the summit had “surprised” him in a positive way, but added: “Will they do them [the actions Bolsonaro pledged]?” and “What’s the follow through and enforcement?”.

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