The recent election of the far-right extremist Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil has set an ominous tone at COP24. Bolsonaro, who takes office on January 1 and has threatened to pull out of the Paris Agreement, roll back environmental policy, expand agroindustry and mining in the Amazon, and abolish the Ministry of the Environment, figures to be a major obstacle for future climate talks.
Thursday morning’s speakers at the Brazilian pavilion offered a sound rebuttal to the incoming administration’s agenda. In a side event on “The Drama of Brazilian People Affected by Climate Change,” panelists decried Bolsonaro’s fascist narrative and repeated attacks on indigenous communities and environmentalists.
“Bolsonaro has a racist stance and creates havoc and fear,” said Nara Baré, President of Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon. “Something that concerns us a lot is that all this resistance we are facing is getting worse and will continue getting worse in 2019.”
“We will remain. We will not give up. We will never give up,” Baré went on to say. “Bolsonaro, we are not afraid.”
This event was immediately followed by a video and panel of speakers on “Knowledge, Perceptions, and Collaborations of Amazonian Indigenous Women about the Environment and Climate Change.” This event featured testimonies of women from Brazil’s Amazon who discussed how their traditional way of life was being negatively impacted by climate change and their deep concerns about the incoming administration.
“We are not the scientists by training, but we are traditional women with traditional knowledge inherited from our parents and grandparents. Today we are passing on that knowledge for our children,” said Almerinda Tariana, Director of Federation of Rio Negro River Indigenous Organizations. “We understand the causes of the impacts that we are facing in our world. … I am worried for future generations.”
Thursday afternoon concluded with a side event on “Brazil, A Second Paris Dropoff.” Panelists discussed Brazil’s role in the global effort to mitigate carbon emissions and in brokering climate talks. Panelists from the Amazon Institute for Environmental Research, Brazilian Climate Observatory, Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations and IPCC discussed deforestation and land use change in Brazil, steps Brazil could take to transition toward a sustainable future, and the dramatic implications a Bolsonaro administration have for the state of climate governance in Brazil and on an international scale.
“I wish we could bring some hope, but I might be wrong at this point,” said Carlos Rittl, Executive Secretary of the Climate Observatory. “Brazil should be the host of COP25. The convention should go back home to the place it was born.”
Despite the fact that Brazil is almost certainly headed toward a dark path in the coming years, some of the conference’s participants remain at least hopeful for Brazil’s future.
“I think it’s a little bit like what happened with the U.S.,” said Cecilia Oliveira, Project Leader at the Institute for Advanced Sustainable Studies. “Of course it is a big impact. On the other hand, what you saw in the last elections in the U.S., you really saw that the people tried to change the establishment. The next time that Brazil needs to design an NDC is in 2023. Our next election is 2022. Maybe during these four years, we will manage to recover something or create an alternative path.”