Last weekend all the spotlights were on what was a historic event for the United Kingdom. Millions of people, some as protestors and some as spectators enjoying the event, were present at the coronation of King Charles III.
A few days earlier, however, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had signed a major deal. On May 5, just one day ahead of the coronation, President Lula shared good news with the world: Britain pledged to contribute $101 million to the Amazon Fund.
President @LulaOficial has exhibited great leadership on climate change. I'm pleased the UK will contribute £80 million to the Amazon Fund – so we can help stop deforestation and protect biodiversity.
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) May 5, 2023
A substantial part of Lula’s political action has been devoted to the restoration of the Amazon rainforest. Since his first day in office he has clearly stated his intention of making a hard break from his right-wing predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro.
It has now been four months and even if much of the noise around him and his victory seems to have quieted down in the Western public, President Lula is keeping his promises and working hard on the “lungs of the Earth.”
Just in the last months his efforts to combat deforestation in the Amazon rainforest have shown amazing strides on the international stage. On April 20, 2023, U.S. President Joe Biden announced plans to boost U.S. funding to reduce deforestation in Brazil.
During a virtual meeting with the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, Biden pledged $500 million over five years to support the Amazon Fund, making the U.S. one of the program’s largest contributors. Meanwhile, Lula has also been in talks with several European countries, including France, regarding potential contributions to the fund.
Not only that; a fundamental starting point for the newly elected president was that of recovering control of the situation left by Bolsonaro’s presidency, which among many other things facilitated the destruction of 45,586 km² of forest over four years.
“The past four years have been marked by Bolsonaro government’s anti-environment and anti-Indigenous agenda, and by the irreparable damage caused to the Amazon, biodiversity, and to the rights and lives of Indigenous People and Traditional Communities,” explained André Freitas, Amazon Campaign Coordinator for Greenpeace Brazil, shortly after the 2022 election.
During his time in office, the former Brazilian President oversaw a sharp rise in police violence, with more than six thousand people killed by the police each year in 2020 and 2021. He also relaxed gun laws, justifying it as “necessary for citizens to protect themselves against criminals and left-wing land invaders.”
Bolsonaro’s rhetoric was often divisive and discriminatory, insulting Afro-Brazilian communities and Indigenous peoples. Lula is not only faced with enormous climate losses but he also will need to take steps to address the deep-rooted issues of police violence and discrimination that have plagued Brazil and rebuild trust with the population and Indigenous people.
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Lula pledged to end any type of illegal action taking place in the Amazon. In recent years, the area has seen a surge in illegal gold mining, with gun-toting miners resisting efforts to crack down on their activities. These illegal activities are not only harming the rainforest but also endangering the lives of Indigenous communities living in the area.
By declaring a state of public health emergency on January 21, and ordering the federal police to reclaim the forest from illegal activities, President Lula took a bold step towards addressing the threats facing the Amazon rainforest.
This was a clear signal of the new government’s commitment to protecting the rainforest and its Indigenous communities.
Following this track, a demarcation decree was signed in April 2023. The decree will legalize Indigenous lands and ensure that no territory is left without demarcation during his government.
Lula’s commitment to protecting Indigenous communities and their land has been well-received, with him describing the decision as “an important step” in a tweet.
Hoje demarcamos 6 territórios indígenas, um passo importante. Não deixem de se organizar e cobrar. O governo existe para atender os interesses do povo. Tenho certeza que o povo indígena terá orgulho da ministra @GuajajaraSonia e da @JoeniaWapichana na Funai.
— Lula (@LulaOficial) April 28, 2023
By taking these actions, the new government is signaling a strong commitment to addressing the challenges facing the Amazon rainforest and protecting its Indigenous communities.
The decree is a significant step towards protecting Indigenous communities and their land, as it grants them greater control over the resources on their reserves. It also sends a clear message that the new government is committed to protecting the environment and ensuring that the Amazon rainforest remains a vital part of Brazil’s cultural and ecological heritage.
Nevertheless, the battle to shut down illegal mining and deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has been challenged swiftly, showing just how difficult it will be to eradicate the illicit industry.
Just a few days after the Decree was signed, a group of heavily armed miners ambushed environmental ministry officials as they attempted to dismantle an illegal mining camp near Yanomami territory. The Brazilian government has been trying to expel these miners and has destroyed 327 mining camps, 18 planes, and two helicopters in Yanomami territory alone.
Clearly, the effort to restore peace in the Amazon does not come without difficulty. However with these policies, the government is taking a step towards rebuilding trust with the population and Indigenous peoples by demonstrating its commitment to protecting their land and resources.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest. Featured Photo Credit: CIFOR.