Preserving Brazil’s Sovereignty Means Taking Responsibility for the Amazon

By Robert Muggah and Adriana Abdenur

Published on Global Observatory (IPI)

The world is waking-up to the climate emergency. But our prolonged slumber is going to cost us dearly. The latest scientific findings indicate that our planet is approaching multiple “tipping points” that could cause irreversible and catastrophic changes in temperature, ecosystems and biodiversity. One country that could help decisively shape the future of the global climate is Brazil, home to over 40 percent of the world’s tropical forests and 20 percent of its fresh water supplies. Once a promising player in environmental conservation, Brazil’s stance has changed dramatically as far-right nationalist president, Jair Bolsonaro, and the pro-agriculture and beef lobbies that back him, are convinced that the climate agenda is a conspiracy, driven by hidden interests from abroad. All the while, the forests are burning at rates not seen since 2010.

A tricky question facing the international community is how to conserve global public goods such as forests in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia at a time when multilateral cooperation is waning. When it comes to reversing climate change, it is impossible for any one single state to deliver results on their own. Up until now, governments prefer to establish non-binding international agreements such as the Paris Climate Agreement or the Kyoto Protocol. Businesses have called for market-based mechanisms intended to reward reductions in greenhouse gases and reforestation efforts. Meanwhile, many environmental and indigenous activists—and a growing number of socially-minded businesses and average citizens—are adamant that it is only through direct actions such as protesting, campaigning, boycotting, and divestment that governments and businesses will agree to reverse anthropogenic climate change.

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