The Deplorable Climate Agenda of Jair Bolsonaro

The recent attack on far-right candidate and congressman, Jair Bolsanaro, has plunged Brazil’s upcoming presidential election into chaos and enhanced the prospects of a dangerous candidate who has expressed deplorable views and promotes an anti-environmental agenda.  

A right-wing populist, Bolsonaro poses a major threat to his nation’s climate commitments, promising to follow President Donald Trump’s lead and withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement.

Bolsonaro, described by The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman as the most misogynistic, hateful elected official in the democratic world,” was stabbed at a campaign rally on September 7.  Although he lost 40 percent of his blood, he is improving and remains in the race.  In the first poll since the attack, Bolsonaro rose in popularity to a high of 30 percent, with no other candidate getting more than 12 percent.

A Bolsonaro victory would land a devastating blow to Brazil’s democracy.  Bolsonaro, who is currently capitalizing on a global wave of right-wing populism, has a history of making derogatory statements about marginalized groups.   He has shown a contempt for democratic norms, boasting at a campaign rally that he would like to shoot corrupt members of the popular Workers’ Party (PT) and has referred to the nation’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship as avery goodperiod.  

“Like Donald Trump, Bolsonaro is a racist,” says Paulo Lima, a Brazilian journalist and Executive Director of the non-profit Viração Educomunicação. “He is also a defender of guns.  He is against the rights of the LGBTI population and against the  women’s rights movement.” Paulo Lima, Brazilian Journalist.

The Lula Effect

The prospects of a Bolsonaro presidency rose dramatically on August 31 when Brazil’s Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) declared former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, or “Lula,” ineligible for a third term.   He is currently in jail, and could appeal a 12-year sentence for corruption and money laundering.

Prior to being declared ineligible, Lula was consistently polling ahead of Bolsonaro.  According to one CNT/MDA study in August, Lula polled at 21.8 percent, while Bolsonaro was at 18.4 percent.

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Foto: Wikimedia Commons

While Lula’s center-left PT differs considerably from Bolsonaro’s far-right Social Liberal Party, Bolsonaro could attract Lula’s populist-minded voters.

“The ‘outsider’ and ‘maverick’ image Bolsonaro tries to project in his campaign has also attracted non-ideological voters who would be with Lula if he was the candidate,” says Bruno Heilton Toledo Hisamoto, a Ph.D. candidate in International Relations at the University of São Paulo, speaking to La Ruta del Clima.  “That is, voters who like Lula’s style more than PT’s ideological platform and see this style in Bolsonaro. Thus, from the right, Bolsonaro gathers the votes that would traditionally go to a moderate Brazilian Social Democracy Party and manages to capture some of the votes that would go to Lula in normal circumstances.”

The Rise of Bolsonaro

Bolsonaro’s message has resonated with a Brazilian electorate fed up with rampant corruption in their country.  Current President Michel Temer of the Brazilian Democratic Movement party has had an approval rating in the single digits for months.  Since assuming power following the controversial impeachment of then-President Dilma Rousseff, Temer has been besieged with charges of corruption and obstruction of justice

To rally support, Bolsonaro has vowed to take on corruption and crime, while attacking marginalized groups in the process.

“Bolsonaro draws heavily on the discourse of Donald Trump, to whom he repeatedly paid public tribute since before his election,” says Toledo. “Like Trump, Bolsonaro wants to project the image of an outsider willing to challenge the political establishment and to end traditional politics, despite the fact that he has been a congressman for almost 30 years, with his sons holding elective positions in all areas of the legislature.” Bruno Heilton Toledo Hisamoto, a Ph.D. candidate in International Relations at the University of São Paulo.

A retired captain of the Brazilian army, Bolsonaro also appeals to a militaristic nationalism and accuses the left of being “globalist,” says Toledo. “At this point, he also resorts to xenophobia, rejecting the entry of immigrants into the country since they can ‘steal jobs’ from Brazilian workers.”

Bolsonaro and the Paris Agreement

While climate change has not played a major role in this year’s presidential campaign, and Bolsonaro’s intentions to leave the Paris Agreement have been little more than a footnote in his campaign message, withdrawal would have serious ramifications for both Brazil and the international community. Brazil, which is home to the world’s largest rainforest and ninth-largest economy, is also considered the likely host for the 2019 climate negotiations.  

Bolsonaro’s proposed withdrawal was met with harsh criticism from UN Environmental chief Erik Durkheim, who stated: “A rejection of the Paris Agreement is a rejection of science and fact. It’s also a false promise, because politicians who present climate action as a cost to society have got it all wrong.”

However, as Toledo notes, it would be difficult for Bolsonaro to withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement because the text was ratified by Congress and the President does not have immediate power to denounce it.  “In addition, many Brazilian states also have climate commitments that are independent of federal government action and virtually all large Brazilian companies in all economic sectors are signatories to international declarations in favor of climate actions.”

“My fear here is more practical than legal. A hypothetical Bolsonaro government could sabotage important measures to facilitate the achievement of Brazil’s targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, especially in deforestation combat and agriculture. If Bolsonaro loosens only land-use change legislation, the effects on national greenhouse gas emissions would be large.” Bruno Heilton Toledo Hisamoto, a Ph.D. candidate in International Relations at the University of São Paulo.

Concern has also been expressed by Lima, who is fearful:

“If Brazil were to abandon the Paris Agreement, it would have huge consequences  for us and it would be a big setback. First of all, Brazil would cease to be a major player in the international arena and in negotiations within the UNFCCC and the Conference of Parties. Brazil would become a major planetary threat because the Amazon would run the risk of totally disappearing.  Bolsonaro wants to further strengthen agro-business and the advancement of livestock in the Amazon. This means more deforestation plus increased carbon dioxide and methane emissions, the principal greenhouse gases.” Paulo Lima, Brazilian Journalist.

Much is on the line when voters in the world’s fourth-largest democracy go to the polls this October.  A Bolsonaro victory would deliver a devastating blow to the nation’s social, democratic and environmental prospects.

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America’s Pledge: Filling the Void at COP23

During the COP23 Conference in Bonn earlier this month, a group of leaders from state and local governments, the business world, colleges and faith organizations established the U.S. Climate Action Center, a giant pavilion where they reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement.  High profile figures such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Vice President Al Gore and California Governor Jerry Brown spoke about the importance of transitioning to a low-carbon economy and meeting the two-degree climate target established in Paris.

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IMG_2995During COP23, Bloomberg and Brown held a launch event for America’s Pledge, an initiative that brings together public and private sector leaders committed to meeting the goals set forth in the Paris Agreement. This broad alliance sent a message to the rest of the world that much of the United States was willing to move forward, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the accord.  Governors, senators, mayors, corporate executives, university presidents, and religious leaders pledged to do their share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support renewable energy.  

 

“The group of U.S. cities, states, and businesses who remain committed to the Paris Agreement represents a bigger economy than any nation outside the U.S. and China,” said Bloomberg in his remarks about America’s Pledge at COP23. “We should have a seat at the table – and the ability to work with peers in other nations. And that’s the aim of this pavilion.”

Bloomberg went on to say: “The Trump Administration did send a delegation here to Bonn, and this might be the first climate conference where coal is promoted as an example of sustainability – but it will also likely be the last. The world is moving on, and so is the U.S.”

Leaders of America’s Pledge initiative were not without their critics who pointed out that many of these leaders have often been at odds with environmentalists.

Governor Brown, who was targeted throughout his appearances in Bonn, presides over the country’s third largest oil- and gas-producing state.  And while Brown has been hailed by some as a climate hero for helping extend California’s cap-and-trade program to 2030 and signing green energy agreements with partnering Chinese cities, he has often been criticized by “keep it in the ground” activists for embracing fracking and urban drilling in California.

Bloomberg has also been a proponent of fracking and was critical of New York’s decision to ban the technology, coauthoring an op-ed piece in The Washington Post entitled “Fracking is too important to foul up.”  Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who spoke at COP23, has been criticized by environmentalists for backing natural gas pipelines and championing off-shore drilling.  

Corporations and banks represented at the U.S. Climate Action Center, such as Walmart, Citigroup, Inc., and JPMorgan Chase, also have mixed environmental records.  While Walmart has pledged to become 100 percent supplied by renewable energy and create zero waste, only about 13 percent of its energy use in the United States comes from renewable energy.   Citigroup, Inc. has committed $100 billion to finance sustainable growth over a 10-year period, but has spent billions of dollars financing coal power plant operators.  JPMorgan Chase financed billions of dollars in extreme oil projects, such as Arctic drilling and tar sands extraction.

While many of the leaders of this initiative have far from immaculate environmental records, their defiant stand at COP23 helps fill the void in U.S. climate leadership that was left by the current administration.  As Bloomberg pointed out, this coalition represents more than half of the U.S. economy and would constitute the world’s third largest economy.  

“Cities, states, regions, and businesses can help to lead the way. Around the world, we need to empower local and regional governments to take action – and to work with business leaders to leverage their resources and expertise,” said Bloomberg. “America’s Pledge seeks to do just that – and we hope the UN will continue working on ways to incorporate non-state actors into the international process, in every country in the world.”

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If America is to meet its commitment to the Paris Agreement, it will require an all-hands-on-deck strategy. With the current administration turning its back on climate change, other players must step in.  As the world continues to fall short of the Paris Agreement targets, this new coalition of U.S. politicians, corporate executives, religious leaders and university presidents must take leadership in denouncing fossil fuel extraction and committing to carbon neutrality.

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La Ruta del Clima is an official Partner

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La Ruta del Clima is an official Partner of UN Climate Change to support the COP23 that takes place in Bonn, Germany.

This is the second opportunity that La Ruta del Clima joins as a partner of the Secretariat of the UNFCCC to support the UN Climate Change Conference in aspects of inclusive communication.

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La Ruta del Clima supports citizen participation and considers it essential to the success and effectiveness of climate actions. 

“Inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue builds empathy and fosters better decision processes for the common good.” Adrian Martinez, President La Ruta del Clima 

At COP23, we support the UNFCCC Secretariat with the Climate Action Studio through communicative products. We hope that these inputs promote a more transparent climate governance and greater access to information for different social actors, including citizens. La Ruta del Clima highly values participatory collaborations to promote climate empowerment.

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Notes from the Bonn Zone: Days 2 and 3

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The climate negotiations in Bonn are off to a promising start in advancing the implementation of the Paris Agreement, with Syria pledging to sign the Paris Agreeement on Tuesday.  Side events and exhibitions in the Bonn Zone on Tuesday and Wednesday highlighted the significance of what is at stake in these negotiations.  

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China opened its Tuesday sessions in the Bonn Zone with a side event on China’s Energy Conservation and its Contribution to Addressing Climate Change.  This talk focused on China’s conservation and emission reduction efforts as well its conservation policies and measures.  Panelists discussed the link between energy efficiency and economic prosperity as well as China’s energy conservation plans for 2050.

 At the same time, the World Wildlife Fund’s pavilion hosted a Spanish-speaking side event, Challenges and Opportunities for Climate Action in Latin America and the Caribbean in the New Political Context. Adrian Martinez of La Ruta del Clima served as the panel’s moderator while other panel members included representatives from Mexico, Colombia and Peru. 

Topics included how to involve local governments in climate action plans, the connection between climate change, development and education, the importance of civil society in climate change governance and the effect of political transitions on climate policy.  

“Climate change is not something that just affects us personally or physically,” said Anne Dunn of Fiji. “It’s something, that as islanders, as a Fijian, affects the very core of who we are.  It affects my identity.”

At the close of the meeting, Fiji’s Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources, Mereseini Vuniwaq said: “We have seen here today how six people from different countries in the Pacific, who did not even know each other a short time ago, can come together to produce beautiful and insightful videos, uniting as one voice. They are not video professionals and they are not professional entertainers.  They are six very intelligent young people with good ideas and generous hearts.  They are happy to devote themselves to something much larger than they are, much greater than all of us.”

Vuniwag went on to say: “I am thrilled to send these voices forth with a message to the world from the Pacific.  The crisis is now, the solution is now and the commitment must be now.”

On Wednesday afternoon, a panel of British scientists convened at the United Kingdom pavillion for the side event: Ocean Options: Climate Challenges and Science Responses for Seas and Society.  Panelists discussed the effects of ocean acidification, sea level rise, ocean temperature change and oxygen loss.

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Philip Williamson of the University of East Anglia discusses the effects of change in ocean temperature over the past several decades.

They also discussed their projects that included looking at offshore carbon dioxide storage deep below the seabed and studying blue carbon, the process by which plants move carbon dioxide into living biomass.

Late Wednesday afternoon, panelists from various NGOs throughout Latin America discussed their role in challenging the status quo and implementing innovative and sustainable technologies in their respective countries.

 

 

 

 

 One of the panelists was Luis Pérez, who works for Sailcargo Inc., a carbon negative transportation company based in Costa Rica.  

The Sailcargo Inc. team is developing a ship powered by wind and solar that seeks innovative and sustainable solutions to the shipping industry.  Pérez explained that Costa Rica, with its proximity to the Panama Canal, supply of sustainable wood resources and reputation as an eco-friendly country, serves as an optimal base for the company.