Environmentalists in Brazil rejoice following Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s narrow win in the country’s runoff presidential election on Oct. 30. According to climate activists, Lula’s election could save the Amazon Rainforest where deforestation has surged during the presidency of far-right Jair Bolsonaro.
Leftist Lula secured a win against incumbent Bolsonaro by just 1.8% of the votes on Sunday.
“During the past four years, the Amazon has been threatened, attacked and destroyed as the government openly promoted environmental crimes,” Erika Berenguer, Senior Research Associate at the Ecosystems Lab in the University of Oxford, told New Scientist. “It was like having to silence a scream inside you every day as you watched the object of your life, your career and passion destroyed. Lula’s election is a victory not only for the region, but for humanity and life itself.”
Amazon deforestation reached a 15-year-high as Bolsonaro called for mining and farming in protected areas, weakened environmental regulation, and cut funding to key ecological institutions. The amount of Amazon being cleared is about 75% higher now in comparison to 2019 when Bolsonaro took office.
Brazil’s new president Lula has pledged to stop illegal mining in the Amazon, subsidize sustainable farming, launch a national climate change authority in line with the Paris Agreement and create a ministry dedicated to Indigenous peoples.
Last week, Lula released a letter outlining the country’s strategic direction in several aspects, including sustainable mining for energy transition, zero deforestation, and zero CO2 emissions.
The challenge ahead of Lula is significant, as his tight presidential victory brings a divided congress and a narrow electoral mandate.