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Brazilian president-elect Lula's presence is 'important' for COP27

Lula Da Silva meeting indigenous people of the Amazon, 2022. [@LulaOficial/Twitter]
Lula Da Silva meeting indigenous people of the Amazon, 2022. [@LulaOficial/Twitter]

More than ninety heads of state and government are in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, for the UN's COP27 climate summit. Brazilian president-elect Lula Da Silva, who won the run-off poll against incumbent Jair Bolsonaro on 30 October, will attend the summit at the invitation of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, even though he will not be president until January.

Bolsonaro is not expected to attend COP27; he is a figure of hate for environmentalists over his support for timber companies stripping the Amazon rainforest. According to Egyptian presidential spokesman Bassam Rady, "Egypt's president harbours hopes about the 'positive and constructive role' that Brazil will play [under Lula]."

"Lula will be there, but there is still no specific date set for the president-elect's participation," revealed Gleisi Hoffman, the head of the Workers' Party in Brazil. He added that Lula is likely to be in Sharm El Sheikh on 7 and 8 November for the World Leaders' Summit.

"Lula Da Silva has a global reputation thanks to his achievements in his last term as president of Brazil," Dr Muhammad Al-Zawawy of Sakarya University told me. "He is also an icon as a leader who seeks to fulfil the dreams of the poor people in his country. Social justice and economic prosperity are priorities for him, so inviting him to COP27 even while he is still president-elect, is important for the summit."

Al-Zawawy pointed out that the relationship between Egypt and Brazil goes back decades. They share almost identical views in terms of international politics, and have similar social, economic and political problems.

Brazil is a role model for the kind of transition needed to counter or slow climate change. Its natural resources and vast rainforest and infrastructure are ripe for investment from the Arab world, with promising opportunities for wind, solar and hydro-electric energy, as well as nitrogen- and hydrogen-based energy solutions.

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"With the new leadership in Brazil, I think there will be many opportunities for Arab investors and cooperation in trade, agriculture and the service sectors," added Al-Zawawy, "especially given the renewed hope of economic growth that is promised by the new leadership in Brazil."

Lula served as president between 2003 and 2011. He pledged during his latest election campaign to safeguard the Amazon rain forest. "Let's fight for zero deforestation," he said during his first speech after his election victory.

"Brazil is ready to resume its position as a protagonist in the fight against the climate crisis, protecting all of our ecosystems, especially the Amazon rainforest," added Lula. "Under our [earlier] government, we were able to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 80 per cent, considerably reducing the emission of greenhouse gases."

Some experts predict that the annual deforestation rate of the Brazilian Amazon could be reduced by nearly 90 per cent by the end of the decade following Bolsonaro´s loss in the election.

Bolsonaro came to power in 2019, and took an aggressive stance against environmental issues. He cut spending for science and environmental agencies, for example, fired environmental experts and weakened indigenous land rights.

Around 17 per cent of the Amazon rainforest — more than 34,000 sq km — was destroyed between 2019 and 2021. Scientists estimate that if the figure hits 20 to 25 per cent, parts of the tropical ecosystem could dry out, threatening the millions of people and animals that depend on it.

Lately, Brazilian environmentalists have celebrated the Supreme Court ruling for the reactivation of the biggest fund for the protection of the rainforest. The Amazon Fund was frozen in 2019 when Bolsonaro wound up two of its key committees. It must now reopen within 60 days and allow Brazil's state development bank to start using its R$3 billion.

Professor Arlene Elizabeth Clemesha of the University of São Paulo, said that it would thus have been odd for Bolsonaro to have been invited to the climate summit. "A number of countries have started to suggest that they now have renewed hopes in Brazil's ability to protect the environment," she noted. "Lula's invitation shows how prestigious he is as a world leader for Brazil, the world and the environment."

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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