After narrowly defeating far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro in an election that was seen as crucial for the future of the Amazon rainforest, Brazil’s new president-elect Lula Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has pledged to stop deforestation and prioritise climate action in his government.

The 77-year-old experienced politician, commonly known as Lula, who previously served two terms as Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2011, makes a spectacular comeback with the victory. Lula was imprisoned for two years on corruption-related accusations before having the charges eventually thrown out.

Amazon deforestation rates fell by 80% during Lula’s prior administrations, but the trend changed under Bolsonaro’s turbulent presidency when his support for logging and farming interests caused the illegal destruction of the rainforest to reach record highs.

Experts believe the biodiversity-rich Amazon rainforest, dubbed the “lungs of the Earth” due to its vast natural carbon stores, is nearing a tipping point, and Lula’s victory yesterday is indeed considered a critical win for global action on attempting to prevent deforestation and intensifying climate change action.

While running for president, Lula implied that Brazil would take a more active part in international climate negotiations under his leadership and develop a more ambitious national decarbonization plan in support of the Paris Agreement, promising an end to Bolsonaro’s four years of blockage and climate denial.

In his first remarks after winning last night, Lula emphasised the importance of environmental protection and climate change mitigation in his vision for Brazil under his leadership for the next four years.

He stated on Twitter that Brazil was prepared to resume taking the lead in the fight against the climate problem by defending all of our biomes, particularly the Amazon Forest. “Let’s battle for zero deforestation,” the statement reads. “In our [previous] government, we were able to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 80%.”

In a speech after his victory, Lula reportedly said: “Brazil and the planet need a living Amazon. A standing tree is worth more than tons of wood illegally harvested by those who think only of easy profit… A river of clear water is worth more than gold extracted at the expense of mercury that kills fauna and risks human life.”

Analysis by Carbon Brief has estimated that by simply enforcing existing rainforest protection laws that have been largely ignored under Bolsonaro, Lula could slash deforestation rates by almost 90 percent.

According to reports, Lula also pledged to increase Amazon monitoring and surveillance, support the rights of indigenous people, and “combat any and all unlawful activity, whether mining, logging, or incorrect agricultural occupation.”

Simultaneously, he added, “we will encourage the sustainable development of communities residing in the Amazon region.” “Let’s demonstrate once more that riches can be created without harming the environment.”

He added: “We are committed to indigenous peoples, other forest peoples and biodiversity. We want environmental pacification. We are not interested in a war for the environment, but we are ready to defend it from any threat.”

Leaders from around the world, such as French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden, were quick to acknowledge Lula’s narrow victory in the election, in which he received slightly less than 51% of the vote against Bolsonaro’s 49%.

Presidents of Canada and Spain, Pedro Sanchez and Justin Trudeau, especially mentioned environmental and climate concerns as areas of shared interest with Brazil’s new president on which they intended to collaborate moving ahead.

However, Lula will encounter strong opposition to his programme in Brazil’s legislature as a result of Bolsonaro’s far-right supporters performing better than anticipated in the senate elections last month.

After such a tight result, there are still concerns that tense political tensions may worsen in the days and weeks that follow the election since Bolsonaro and his campaign have yet to properly confront their loss and admit defeat.

Lula’s victory and environmental pledges, however, will be seen as a significant boost ahead of the COP27 UN climate talks, which are scheduled to begin next week in Egypt. Brazil is now expected to submit a more ambitious national climate action plan and work more closely with its allies to expand projects meant to combat deforestation.

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