What to expect from Lula on the environmental front

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, January 05, 2023
What to expect from Lula on the environmental front

The administration of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva plans to implement stricter environmental policies that could create obstacles for some business sectors while benefitting others.

"Under this [pro-environmental] agenda of the current government, there are economic segments that will be part of the solution in the midst of these efforts as is the case of the renewable energy segment," Rodrigo Sauaia, president of local solar power association Absolar, told BNamericas. 

Several business sectors that need to offset the negative environmental impacts they are causing will turn to renewable energy for their operations, including the infrastructure, sanitation and mining sectors, said Sauaia.

Lula took office on Sunday and this week he appointed Marina Silva (pictured) as environment minister.

Silva held the same post in 2003-2008 and she is one of the leaders of the environmentalist Rede Sustentabilidade party. 

Lula's administration is looking to implement a major policy change compared with former president Jair Bolsonaro, who was criticized worldwide for his lack of commitment to protecting the environment. 

"What we saw in these years that passed was a complete disrespect for the Brazilian socio-environmental heritage," said Silva in her inaugural speech. "The climate change policy was completely eroded, to the point that Brazil, which was previously a prominent actor in on the global stage, came to be seen as a pariah.”

During her first tenure as environment minister, Silva stepped up measures against deforestation and reinforced environmental inspections, which generated criticism from some business leaders that licensing procedures became too cumbersome while environmental groups accused these leaders of exaggeration. 

"The licensing processes under Marina were correct and not rigid … they followed prevailing law and she respected all technical criteria," Sergio Leitão, founder of sustainability-focused NGO Instituto Escolhas, told BNamericas. 

“What we saw in the past administration was that he [Bolsonaro] turned a blind eye to irregularities in the Amazon region, and that did not bring legal certainty since the licenses obtained could later be contested in court," he said, adding that a correct application of the law will now return under Lula’s administration.

Some experts expect the administration to apply more demanding criteria for the approval of oil and gas, mining and infrastructure projects that could affect indigenous communities, forests and environmentally protected areas.

“Licensing in southeastern states, where most urban regions are concentrated, are not likely to see changes, but projects in other regions, such as the Amazon, Cerrado and the midwest, are set to face more rigid processes," Lucas Fernandes, a political analyst at local consulting firm BMJ Consultores Associados, told BNamericas. 

Vice president Geraldo Alckmin, who is also development, industry and trade minister, said in his inaugural speech that Brazil should adopt a policy of reindustrialization that is environmentally friendly.

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