GUEST BLOG: IGOR VIEIRA
2019 has been a huge year for Brazil. Just three months into our new government, and Brazilians already have much to question. Our elected President lowered the importance of discussing climate change issues, the Environment Secretary was condemned for administrative impropriety (for favoring mining companies), and a conservative wave swallows the country.
A lot happened in the first three months of the year. I’ll try to summarize some of the changes based on the government's new model for the environment ministry structure... In short, 40 years of environmental legislation and developments of the environmental protection recognized around the world have been ignored, causing the ministry of the environment itself to lose many of its political rights and, worse, pushing its dependency into places where priority interests are economic. This is a clear reflection of the government's little concern with the environmental agenda.
The restructuring of the Environmental Ministry has placed it without authority to form and manage policies; there are no more guidelines to combat deforestation, and no more programs that emphasize the needs of indigenous populations. The agenda also has no space to combat desertification and wildfires , disrupting the Department of Environmental Education and excluding themes such as environmental responsibility, production, and sustainable consumption. Similarly, the department on Sustainable Development does not function as before and the public management and water resources policy has been moved to another ministry: Regional Development.
On climate change the situation is disheartening. It has basically disappeared from the Ministry of the Environment, being redirected into small mentions within the Ministries of Agriculture, Economy, Science and Technology. We do not yet know who will lead the international negotiations on climate change, which was meant to be the allocation of the environmental portfolio. And, as if it isn’t bad enough, the current chancellor of the Brazilian state is a climate change denier.
This new design of environmental policy management is problematic. It separates key issues such as deforestation and climate change, this is a concern for environmentalists, since the weakening of Brazilian environmental policy occurs at the same time as deforestation rates have risen again: INPE (National Institute of Space Research) warned that in 2018 almost 7,900 km² of Amazonian rainforest was destroyed.
From January to March, indigenous lands suffered constant attacks, we experienced a new environmental disaster related to mining and dams, and indiscriminately, more than 74 new agrochemicals entered the Brazilian market after government liberation. Currently, more than 2,000 agrochemical products are released for commercialization in Brazil; pesticides, which are largely banned around the world because they are associated with increased incidences of cancer and genetic mutations.
Given this bleak reality, Brazilian youth have tried to mobilise to combat the misinformation and lack of concern that our current government is inflicting on our country. In 2018, at COP24 in Poland, Brazilian youth campaigned in solidarity with young people from around the world to pressure their country's decision-makers to watch and positively influence Brazilian leaders to do the right thing: navigate a road to climate justice, which we so desperately need to achieve.
We want to continue building bridges because our goal is united, and our past mistakes should not to be repeated. We urge the UK to ensure that there is no longer lobby pressure coming from British oil companies such as Shell, BP and Premier Oil in Brazil, as happened in 2017 under the government of Michel Temer, through the visit of the then British minister of trade Greg Hands. We also ask agrochemicals companies, many of them from Europe, not to surrender to the permissive market created by the Brazilian government. The country's Ministry of Health documents approximately eight cases of pesticide poisoning every 24 hours, and estimates that for each of these, another 50 are not registered. We are talking about the lives of vulnerable people. With the support of the UK, and the rest of the world, we can try to do things differently.
As has been said many times before: "we are unstoppable, another world is possible" and we draw inspiration from the strength of Greta Thunberg, who set a new chapter in the worldwide fight for climate justice through student strikes around the world. Greta stood in front of the Swedish parliament asking that her country go further in order to comply with the Paris Agreement. Her movement has inspired millions of young people and students around the world and strikes have taken place ever since. On March 15, Brazilian youth will be united with the world, facing those responsible for this crisis, and making it clear that we had enough. This is an important moment and we must treat it as such. Big industries, lobbyists, and countries who have profited from years of pollution cannot be allowed to sink us further into irreversible climate change.
Climate change has the potential to be to the greatest collapse ever faced by mankind, and the survival of the planet depends on our response to this phenomenon. The situation is alarming. But young people are willing to be at the frontline of this fight. The 15th of March will be a momentous day for youth across the globe to stand together for our common Earth. The youth of Brazil are proud to join this global movement and support #fridays4future within the #GlobalClimateStrike, and we will strike in the cities of Juazeiro do Norte, Belo Horizonte, Florianópolis, Goiânia, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Santa Maria, Imbém, São Paulo and Brasilia. If you are in Brazil please join us!
Attempts to suppress our socio-environmental and climate governance in Brazil is worrying. There is no justifiable reason as to why our country should move away from sustainable development towards ecological collapse. and the attempt to build a clean economy. Brazil is the seventh largest carbon emitter in the world, our country cannot abandon its commitments to reduce their carbon emissions, and we need global solidarity to remind our government of this fact. Without climate action, we would put the lives of thousands of Brazilians, and the entire world, at risk. What we want is climate justice, and we want it now because the future is today.
To participate in the Brazilian strikes check out: @fridaysforfuturebrasil
To find out more about the work of Engajamundo, please visit: http://www.engajamundo.org
To read this article in Portuguese click here.