Lula's Presidential Victory Is an Opportunity To Renew U.S.-Brazil Climate Cooperation – Center For American Progress


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Following the election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to Brazil’s presidency—and the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act marking the largest climate investment in U.S. history—a moment of truth for climate emerges for the most populous countries in the Americas right as leaders gather for COP27 in Egypt.
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As the international community gathers for COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, two major developments in the Western hemisphere have created opportunities for climate progress.
In Brazil, the election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the October presidential runoff represents a potential change in direction for the country’s approach to climate. In his first speech to the nation, the president-elect vowed that “Brazil would resume its leading role in the fight against the climate crisis” and “fight for zero deforestation in the Amazon.” Brazil’s new government may be recommitting to decarbonizing its economy, but it is also caught in nearly a decade of economic stagnation. Pressure to respond to urgent social demands in Brazil will interact with international dialogues around democracy, human rights, and the environment—including international climate commitments.
In the United States, pressure to reclaim the mantle of leadership, especially around climate policy, has broken a policy logjam and unlocked historic new levels of climate funding. Congress has passed several substantial pieces of legislation—the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the CHIPS and Science Act (CHIPS), and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)—that provide investment and incentives to accelerate the transition to clean energy, transportation, and climate-smart agriculture. These investments in climate, justice, and jobs have put the administration’s climate action commitment within reach, making it possible for the United States to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 in ways that could help advance global decarbonization.

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Taken together, these strategic climate moments in the United States and Brazil present an opportunity to strengthen bilateral ties and address climate change together. Assertive climate leadership from the United States and Brazil could provide the new momentum that is needed as the world shifts its focus to implementation at COP27 and beyond.
To capitalize on renewed momentum for climate action in the United States and Brazil, the Biden and incoming Lula administrations should take steps to halt deforestation; advance clean energy transitions and industry decarbonization; and encourage climate leadership in multilateral fora.*
This is a challenging moment for the Amazon. Deforestation has increased in recent years, as the Bolsonaro administration undercut the already limited capacity of Brazil’s environmental agencies to patrol the country’s vast expanses. A sense of perceived impunity for illegal deforestation has led to more fires and logging, as well as murders of Indigenous leaders, environmental advocates, and journalists who report on those responsible. Scientists have sounded the alarm that the Amazon is now at a tipping point, with an estimated 20 percent of the region becoming a carbon source rather than a carbon sink. If this trend spreads across the region, a 1.5 degree Celsius world is out of reach.
However, there are some promising developments. President-elect Lula recently committed to creating a ministry of Indigenous affairs and making progress to halt deforestation a national priority. At the same time, a judicial decision appears likely to reactivate the Amazon Fund. These actions would establish a new trajectory that would allow productive and impactful collaboration efforts.
The United States and Brazil announced a bilateral working group on law enforcement and deforestation, co-led by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry; the Brazilian Minister of the Environment Joaquim Leite; and Minister of Justice and Public Security Anderson Torres at the Summit of the Americas in June 2022. This announcement included commitments to achieve measurable declines in illegal deforestation in the Legal Amazon and elsewhere in Brazil every year through 2028, when Brazil has committed to achieving net-zero deforestation.
The two governments should turbocharge the working group to address the drivers of deforestation and invest in conservation, sustainable development, and the rights for Indigenous communities who steward the forest. To motivate progress as a new Lula administration takes the helm, the working group should focus on:
In addition to these partnerships, the United States has opportunities to work domestically on policies and legal frameworks that help slow deforestation around the world. The Biden administration should pursue the following recommendations using its executive authorities and in partnership with Congress:
Partnership opportunities between the United States and Brazil extend beyond conservation. Both countries have committed to rapid decarbonization in their respective broader economies—Brazil in particular will need to review and update its insufficient nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement in order to craft an implementation plan that meets the country’s commitment and re-establishes global credibility moving forward. Hitting these targets requires Brazil and the United States—along with international partners—to create enabling regulatory environments and mobilize the public and private climate finance needed:
Brazil was once a regional leader with numerous initiatives within the Americas—such as the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti in 2004—as well as a global player through active involvement in international organizations and alliances—such as BRICS—and in diverse debates on global governance like the Group of Twenty (G20). In his first speech to the nation as president-elect, Lula made clear that, “Brazil is back … Brazil is too big to be relegated to this sad role of a pariah in the world.” To meet this aspiration, Brazil should:
U.S. and Brazilian collaboration on climate action is of utmost importance to achieve globally agreed-upon climate targets. Recent events in the United States and Brazil bring the promise of new opportunities for collaboration on halting deforestation; implementation of clean energy transitions and industry decarbonization; and climate leadership in multilateral fora. It is critically important that the Biden administration capitalize on this moment and follow through on its commitments to halt global deforestation, support ambitious conservation and clean energy progress, and serve as a reliable partner for Brazil as it works to meet its climate goals and regain trust as a global climate leader.
*Authors note: The Center for American Progress held several closed-door convenings with Western hemisphere, energy, climate, and development experts—as well as numerous follow-up consultations. These structured, forward-looking conversations—albeit informed by past experiences—helped shape CAP’s thinking on short- and medium-term public policy recommendations toward developing a renewed U.S.-Brazil climate partnership.
Ryan Richards is a former senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress.
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