Política

Brazil’s Lula pledges ‘net zero deforestation’ if elected

Ex-president’s political plan has about 120 directives for a future government, including a strong focus on lifting Brazilians from poverty and preserving the environment. Under Bolsonaro, deforestation rates in the Amazon have surged as the president backs farm and ranching expansion in the region. (Reuters Archive) Brazil's former president and front-runner in October elections, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, would seek “net zero deforestation” in the country if elected, a political plan has said

The document outlines Lula's plans for office and has about 120 directives for a future government, including a strong focus on lifting Brazilians from poverty and preserving the environment

“Our commitment is to the relentless fight against illegal deforestation and the promotion of net zero deforestation,” it said, noting “net zero” deforestation plans would include restoration of degraded areas

Widescale restoration efforts could potentially be a significant generator of jobs in poor regions of the country, analysts said

Under Bolsonaro, deforestation rates in the Amazon have surged as the president, who has close ties to the country's powerful agricultural industry, backs farm and ranching expansion in the region

Political observers say Lula, who ruled from 2003-2010, has a realistic change at becoming Brazil's president again – and is using environmental policies as a way to differentiate himself from the incumbent president

Protecting existing forest 

Whether Brazil could reach “net zero” deforestation within a Lula four-year presidential term depends on what the candidate means by the phrase, analysts said

Usually, such a term signifies that for every hectare of forest lost another would be restored. But new-grown forest has far lower value in terms of absorbing climate-polluting carbon dioxide or harboring wildlife than older forests lost, they said

That means protecting existing forest is far more crucial than planting new forest

A newly restored area could “take 100 years to reach this (same) tonnage of carbon”, noted Ane Alencar, science director for the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (Ipam), a non-profit

At last year's COP26 UN climate crisis negotiations in Glasgow, Bolsonaro promised Brazil would reach zero illegal deforestation by 2028, despite soaring deforestation rates during his term in office

Brazil needs to focus on “zero” deforestation rather than just “net zero”, said Luis Fernando Guedes Pinto, executive director of SOS Mata Atlantica, a environmental non-profit

“All science makes it very clear that the issue is getting to zero … not net zero, either legal or illegal,” said Pinto

Green jobs

To reach “net zero” deforestation, Brazil would have to scale up its efforts to restore forests across the country while also fighting deforestation, said Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, a Brazilian non-profit

The aim, Astrini believes, would be to lower deforestation as much as possible and then compensate remaining losses using restoration

A large-scale restoration push could also be used to deliver one of Lula's other big campaign promises: green jobs

“On average, to restore a thousand hectares … you generate approximately 400 jobs” in things such as growing and planting seeds and seedlings and monitoring regrowth, said Ludmila Pugliesi, a restoration manager at Conservation International Brazil

Restoration efforts might focus on private land, she said. Brazilian law requires farmers to retain a share of their land as forest but many have not and could now be required to pay for restoration

“We understand that restoration is not a silver bullet – but (it) can play a part in an economic recovery,” Pugliesi said

Source: Reuters