Lula’s victory in Brazil is a win for tackling the climate crisis
Following the election victories for progressives in Colombia and Chile earlier this year, the fresh hope generated has travelled across Latin America.
Chronic inequality and the impacts of climate change have contributed to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva regaining power in Brazil at last Sunday’s run-off election.
With Jair Bolsonaro’s defeat, there is an opportunity for the United Kingdom to work closely with the new Brazilian government on global issues ranging from poverty to the climate crisis.
It’s important that Bolsonaro admits defeat and congratulates Lula. It’s encouraging the Supreme Court says that Bolsonaro is continuing to facilitate a peaceful transition of power because anything less could risk dividing Brazil further.
Lula’s commitment to attend COP27 also serves as a timely reminder of Rishi Sunak’s failure of leadership on climate issues
Lula’s victory is significant in protecting Brazil’s values. He has already committed to quickly bringing to an end attacks on the freedom of expression that have led to investigative journalists being threatened and harassed, as we saw with the tragic death of Dom Philips in June. In my meetings with the Brazilian Ambassador to the UK, I have been made aware of the many safeguards in place to ensure Brazilian elections and democracy are observed properly and peacefully.
Earlier this year, I met with Brazilian workers’ party (PT) senators in London. It was clear that one of the most immediate challenges to Lula’s administration is the impact of climate change and the destruction of the Amazon that Bolsonaro has enthusiastically presided over since 2019. Labour is committed to working with the UK’s allies and partners to tackle the climate crisis including by seeking to create a new international law of ecocide to criminalise the widespread destruction of the environment.
This would go hand in hand with Labour’s commitment an ambitious green agenda at home, which would turn the UK into a clean energy superpower, to bring down bills and create good jobs here in Britain. It would be beneficial to the world if we partnered with the new Brazilian government on this. Lula’s commitment to attend COP27 also serves as a timely reminder of Rishi Sunak’s failure of leadership on climate issues, as he has to be forced into a climbdown after he initially refused to attend the conference.
Lula understands that we are facing a climate emergency and that the “lungs of the Earth” have been systematically destroyed. It is so important that Brazil commits to its obligations under the agreement signed at COP26, especially after deforestation in the Amazon hit the highest level in 15 years, just two months after the previous administration signed it.
Lula has also committed to ending the continuous encouragement of mining in the Amazon and the attempts to pass legislation that allows commercial developments on protected land. This could not come at a more vital time for the world. The result of those reckless actions is that the Amazon has begun emitting more carbon that it can absorb. It must be a priority of the international community to exhaust all diplomatic avenues to ensure the Brazilian government takes action to reverse this - and fast. With the new administration, that is very likely to happen.
Domestically, Lula is preparing to rebuild the Brazilian welfare state after it was dismantled and Labour stands ready to work with his government on that. Whilst the Conservatives have been silent on the international stage when it comes to workers’ rights, a Labour government would support investigations of Brazil’s breaches of International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions and assist Brazil in strengthening its safeguards on the rights of workers.
Brazil has so much potential to become a key international player in the fight against climate change and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms. But the UK’s relationship with the rest of the world has suffered because of the chaos that Conservatives have presided over in government and made it harder to protect ourselves against threats here at home. With Lula, the UK must take the opportunity to engage with Brazil once again.
Fabian Hamilton is the Labour MP for Leeds North East.
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