“He is looking at it with a modern mind set,” she said. “It is one thing to correct the past, to undo mistakes. It is another thing to affirm new paths.”
President Biden similarly made climate a pillar of his campaign, as did Gabriel Boric, who became president of Chile in March. Just a few weeks ago, Colombia’s leftist presidential candidate Gustavo Petro chose an environmental activist as his running mate. The first round of that election is May 29.
The choice Brazilians make matters for global climate targets. Brazil is, by some measures, the world’s sixth-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. More important, though, is why: It is currently slashing its part of the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, at a pace not seen in over a decade.
Lula’s environmental record is mixed. Back in the day, his administration pushed for new policies that sharply curbed Amazon deforestation, even as agribusiness, including beef, grew. But he seemed to disregard the need for an energy transition, instead refusing to support legislation that would have required Brazil to phase out fossil fuels.
Under the current president, Jair Bolsonaro, climate action has been all but abandoned. The recent explosion in deforestation rates, which have angered the world, will unquestionably be one of the main legacies of his presidency.
Brazil’s current policies have intensified its climate challenge. And it’s not just because of beef. Soy, the country’s top commodity, is increasing pressure on the Cerrado, the country’s vast tropical savanna. There’s also Brazil’s heavy dependence on oil and steel exports.
Bolsonaro’s rise to power is widely seen as a response to a multibillion dollar corruption scandal that upended Brazilian politics years ago. Prosecutors said Lula was implicated at the top of the scandal. He spent 580 days in prison in connection with a conviction that was ultimately overturned.