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Lula pledges to stop deforestation, seeks financing from developed nations

Brazil’s President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva promised at the Cop27 climate summit to reverse the harm done to the Amazon rainforest by his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, claiming that “Brazil is back” in the fight against climate change.

Speaking last week, Lula said that Brazil was ready to renew its commitment to battling climate change, drawing attention to the importance of the election for the survival of the Amazon rainforest.

“There is no climate security for the world without a protected Amazon,” he said. “We will do whatever it takes to have zero deforestation and degradation of our biomes by 2030,” he added, vowing that combating climate change would take highest priority in his government, alongside tackling poverty and inequality.

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At the G20 summit last week, Lula also signed a pact with leaders of two other rainforest countries, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia, that called on developed countries to finance forest conservation. The Amazon fund, financed by Norway and Germany to halt Brazil’s deforestation, was frozen in 2019 due to Bolsonaro’s lack of action, but while it is likely to be unfrozen, more funding will be needed.

Lula won a narrow victory in October against Bolsonaro, whose government cut the budgets of environmental agencies tasked with protecting the Amazon. During Bolsonaro’s presidency, Brazil saw a rapid rise in forest destruction as well as an increase in violence against those using and defending land, particularly Indigenous Peoples.

Earlier this month, Climate Counsel, Greenpeace Brasil and Observatório do Clima filed a case in the International Criminal Court claiming that mass human rights abuses in the Amazon might count as crimes against humanity.

The case alleges there have been over 12,000 land or water-related conflicts in the Brazilian Amazon over the past 10 years, carried out by “an organised network of politicians, civil servants, law enforcement officers, businessmen, and other criminals”. Between 2011 and 2021, these conflicts “resulted in 430 murders, 554 attempted murders, 2290 death threats, 87 cases of torture, and over 100,000 expulsions or evictions”, according to the filing parties.

The role of financial institutions in funding businesses linked to deforestation also remains a problem. In September, non-profit Global Witness claimed that the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of England were bankrolling environmental degradation by purchasing corporate bonds from companies with close ties to deforestation in Brazil.

Meanwhile, this month Global Witness accused several asset management firms in the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) – a coalition of more than 550 financial institutions launched last year – of failing to reduce their investments in companies linked to deforestation. Mark Carney, co-chair of GFANZ, also admitted at Cop27 that voluntary standards produced by GFANZ were not doing enough to cut members’ emissions.

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