Amazon Fires: Jair Bolsonaro Faces Mounting Political Backlash In Brazil – Even From His Allies

Amazon Fires: Jair Bolsonaro Faces Mounting Political Backlash In Brazil – Even From His Allies

While Emmanuel Macron’s gesture of support at the G7 meeting in Biarritz to fight forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon was well-intentioned, it was also clumsy.

By suggesting that the fate of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest should be decided by the G7, and by offering such a small amount of assistance – US$22m to a government that takes in more than US$600 billion per year in revenue – the French president left himself open to criticism from his Brazilian counterpart that he had a colonialist mentality.

Jair Bolsonaro initially rejected the offer of assistance, before his spokesperson backtracked, though it remains unclear whether Brazil would accept the cash and under what conditions.

Despite the apparent simplicity of the stand-off – an environmentalist French president clashing with an anti-globalist Brazilian president brandishing a shield of national sovereignty – the politics in Brazil around the environment are complicated.

Bolsonaro’s criticism of Macron is just part of a long series of attacks by the Brazilian president on the country’s environmental infrastructure and its international partners.

In early August, Bolsonaro fired Ricardo Galvão, director of the National Space Research Institute, for releasing data that showed an increase in deforestation. When Norway suspended a planned contribution to the Amazon Fund, established to promote sustainable development, Bolsonaro criticised the country for hunting whales. And at the height of the recent concern about fires in the Amazon, he suggested that members of NGOs might be setting the fires out of spite for having their funding reduced.

President pariah?

These and other comments unleashed a backlash at home, from both the opposition and key members of Bolsonaro’s own coalition. On May 8, a group of seven former ministers of the environment issued a letter condemning the government’s weakening of environmental protections. They pointed to the shift away from the positive trend between 2004 to 2012, when the rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell by over 80%.

On August 23 and 24, thousands of people in various Brazilian cities reacted to photos of the Amazon fires by protesting against the government’s policies and in defence of the rainforest.

All this comes as Bolsonaro’s wider approval ratings have slipped, with recent surveys showing just how strongly his government divides public opinion. A CNT/MDA poll conducted in late August showed that 39.5% of those interviewed thought the government was bad or terrible, compared to 29.4% who thought it was good or very good.

A survey by Ipespe for XPi released on August 9 found that 55% of those polled agreed that: “The polemical statements by Jair Bolsonaro in the past month were inappropriate.” And when it came to the environment, a poll conducted by IBOPE in mid-August found that 96% of those interviewed agreed that Bolsonaro and the federal government should do more to prevent illegal deforestation in the Amazon.

Despite these mixed opinions, Bolsonaro’s denunciation of the French president’s colonial attitude seemed to garner support among his base, in part because the defence of sovereignty is popular in Brazil across the ideological spectrum.

Mounting dissent

Yet politicians in parties that support Bolsonaro’s government also registered their dissent over the fires. On August 24, members of the pro-government Partido Novo requested that the party expel Ricardo Salles, the environment minister, complaining among other things that he didn’t represent the policies of the party in office and had ignored scientific evidence. However, it’s unlikely the Partido Novo will agree to the request.

On August 27, in a meeting between Bolsonaro and the nine governors of the Amazonian states, only two of whom are from opposition parties, the governors urged the president to accept the money offered by the G7, pointing out that they faced a fiscal crisis.

It doesn’t help Bolsonaro that Brazil’s economy remains sluggish, with growth projected at 0.8% in 2019 and unemployment hovering around 12%.

Perhaps most significantly for the government, representatives of Brazil’s powerful agribusiness sector weighed into the debate. In mid-August, the business newspaper Valor Econômico published interviews with Blairo Maggi, one of Brazil’s biggest soy exporters, and Marcello Brito, president of the Brazilian Agribusiness Association, in which they complained that Brazil’s image as a deforester places agribusiness exports at risk.

Maggi and Brito know how much is at stake. In the first seven months of 2019, 17.7% of Brazil’s agribusiness exports, worth US$1 billion, went to the EU. Those exports might be vulnerable to boycotts.

And all this comes a few months after the EU signed a trade agreement with Mercosur, the economic bloc composed of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, that took 20 years to negotiate. The deal still has to be ratified, and both Macron and the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, said that they would vote against ratification unless Brazil does more to curb deforestation in the Amazon.

Rhetorical retreat

Brazil is not unified around Bolsonaro, and there is no majority pushing to defy the global environmental consensus by prioritising predatory economic development over conservation in the Amazon. Bolsonaro has immobilised the government’s environmental infrastructure, but he has not completely destroyed it, and with the right incentives it could be revitalised.

The government’s decision to send troops to the Amazon to help fight fires at least shows commitment to curb illegal deforestation. Important elements of the government’s own support base – not just the opposition – have embraced the idea of sustainable development and would like their president to dial down his anti-environmental rhetoric.

About The Author

Anthony Pereira, Director, King's Brazil Institute, King's College London

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future

by Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann
1786634295How climate change will affect our political theory—for better and worse. Despite the science and the summits, leading capitalist states have not achieved anything close to an adequate level of carbon mitigation. There is now simply no way to prevent the planet breaching the threshold of two degrees Celsius set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. What are the likely political and economic outcomes of this? Where is the overheating world heading? Available On Amazon

Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

by Jared Diamond
0316409138Adding a psychological dimension to the in-depth history, geography, biology, and anthropology that mark all of Diamond's books, Upheaval reveals factors influencing how both whole nations and individual people can respond to big challenges. The result is a book epic in scope, but also his most personal book yet. Available On Amazon

Global Commons, Domestic Decisions: The Comparative Politics of Climate Change

by Kathryn Harrison et al
0262514311Comparative case studies and analyses of the influence of domestic politics on countries' climate change policies and Kyoto ratification decisions. Climate change represents a “tragedy of the commons” on a global scale, requiring the cooperation of nations that do not necessarily put the Earth's well-being above their own national interests. And yet international efforts to address global warming have met with some success; the Kyoto Protocol, in which industrialized countries committed to reducing their collective emissions, took effect in 2005 (although without the participation of the United States). Available On Amazon

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

POLITICS

A row of male and female speakers at microphones
234 scientists read 14,000+ research papers to write the upcoming IPCC climate report
by Stephanie Spera, Assistant Professor of Geography and the Environment, University of Richmond
This week, hundreds of scientists from around the world are finalizing a report that assesses the state of the global…
image
Climate explained: how the IPCC reaches scientific consensus on climate change
by Rebecca Harris, Senior Lecturer in Climatology, Director, Climate Futures Program, University of Tasmania
When we say there’s a scientific consensus that human-produced greenhouse gases are causing climate change, what does…
Court Takes Industry Bait, Caves to Fossil Fuels
Court Takes Industry Bait, Caves to Fossil Fuels
by Joshua Axelrod
In a disappointing decision, Judge Terry Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana ruled…
G7 Embraces Climate Action to Drive Equitable Recovery
G7 Embraces Climate Action to Drive Equitable Recovery
by Mitchell Bernard
At Biden’s urging, his G7 counterparts raised the bar on collective climate action, pledging to cut their carbon…
Climate change: what G7 leaders could have said – but didn't
Climate change: what G7 leaders could have said – but didn't
by Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science, Director of Oxford Net Zero, University of Oxford
The four-day G7 summit in Cornwall ended with little cause for celebration from anyone worried about climate change.…
How world leaders' high-carbon travel choices could delay climate action
How world leaders' high-carbon travel choices could delay climate action
by Steve Westlake, PhD Candidate, Environmental Leadership, Cardiff University
When UK prime minister Boris Johnson took a one-hour flight to Cornwall for the G7 summit, he was criticised for being…
Nuclear industry’s propaganda war rages on
by Paul Brown
With renewable energy expanding fast, the nuclear industry’s propaganda war still claims it helps to combat climate…
Shell ordered to cut its emissions – why this ruling could affect almost any major company in the world
Shell ordered to cut its emissions – why this ruling could affect almost any major company in the world
by Arthur Petersen, Professor of Science, Technology and Public Policy, UCL
The Hague is the seat of government of the Netherlands and also hosts the International Criminal Court. NAPA /…

LATEST VIDEOS

The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
by Super User
The climate crisis is forcing thousands around the world to flee as their homes become increasingly uninhabitable.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
by Toby Tyrrell
It took evolution 3 or 4 billion years to produce Homo sapiens. If the climate had completely failed just once in that…
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
by Brice Rea
The end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, was characterised by a final cold phase called the Younger Dryas.…
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
by Frank Wesselingh and Matteo Lattuada
Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a…
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
by Richard Ernst
We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of…
Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…

LATEST ARTICLES

3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
by Bart Johnson, Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Oregon
A wildfire burning in hot, dry mountain forest swept through the Gold Rush town of Greenville, California, on Aug. 4,…
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
by Alvin Lin
At the Leader’s Climate Summit in April, Xi Jinping pledged that China will “strictly control coal-fired power…
A plane drops red fire retardant on to a forest fire as firefighters parked along a road look up into the orange sky
Model predicts 10-year burst of wildfire, then gradual decline
by Hannah Hickey-U. Washington
A look at the long-term future of wildfires predicts an initial roughly decade-long burst of wildfire activity,…
Blue water surrounded by dead white grass
Map tracks 30 years of extreme snowmelt across US
by Mikayla Mace-Arizona
A new map of extreme snowmelt events over the last 30 years clarifies the processes that drive rapid melting.
White sea ice in blue water with the sun setting reflected in the water
Earth’s frozen areas are shrinking 33K square miles a year
by Texas A&M University
The Earth’s cryosphere is shrinking by 33,000 square miles (87,000 square kilometers) per year.
A row of male and female speakers at microphones
234 scientists read 14,000+ research papers to write the upcoming IPCC climate report
by Stephanie Spera, Assistant Professor of Geography and the Environment, University of Richmond
This week, hundreds of scientists from around the world are finalizing a report that assesses the state of the global…
A brown weasel with a white belly leans on a rock and looks over its shoulder
Once common weasels are doing a vanishing act
by Laura Oleniacz - NC State
Three species of weasels, once common in North America, are likely in decline, including a species that’s considered…
Flood risk will rise as climate heat intensifies
by Tim Radford
A warmer world will be a wetter one. Ever more people will face a higher flood risk as rivers rise and city streets…

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.