Brazil’s new president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has made steps to protect the future of the Amazon Rainforest. Following the inauguration of president Lula, there are new hopes and conversations about preserving the Amazon.

During his first speech to Congress on January 1 2023, Lula said Brazil did not “need to deforest” the world’s most important ecosystem to support the country’s agricultural sector. He reiterated his goal of “zero deforestation” in his speech.

Lula’s pro-environment speech calls to protect the rainforest and Indigenous people. Effective from January 2 2023, Lula issued six decrees revoking or adjusting anti-envionment-and-Indigenous measures instated by Bolsonaro.

While the decrees are promising, many are aware of the sheer damage already done. “Time hasn’t stopped and the climate emergency scenario has deteriorated. It is now globally worse than when Bolsonaro’s government started” explains Wesley Matheus, chief data advisor for the secretary of social development Minas Gerais, Brazil. “It is hard to think of a timeframe for restoration because we’re still in the process of understanding how great [the devastation was].”

Human Rights and the Amazon Rainforest

According to Human Rights Watch, in the first three years of Bolsonaro’s government, the average deforestation was 75% higher than in the previous decade (2009-2018). The invasions and illegal exploitation of Indigenous lands tripled. The Amazon Rainforest has suffered at the hands of the far-right and the green-lighting of criminality against land and people. The optimism that comes with Lula’s second presidency takes this into account.

In recent reports, Paulo Moutinho,  a scientist at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute Belém, Brazil says immediate action must be taken to curb deforestation. Moutinho insists that large areas of public forests are most in need off urgent protection measures. “We are talking about 56 million hectares of well-preserved forests – that’s the size of Spain,” Moutinho explains.

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What we know:

“Our goal is to achieve zero deforestation in the Amazon and zero emission of greenhouse gases in the electricity matrix, in addition to stimulating the reuse of degraded pastureland. Brazil does not need to deforest in order to maintain and expand its strategic agricultural frontier,” Lula said Jan. 1 during his inauguration speech before the National Congress. “We will not tolerate violence against minorities, deforestation and environmental degradation, which have already done so much harm to the country.” He noted that the government transition office diagnosed Bolsonaro’s government as “appalling,” stating, “They have destroyed the protection of the environment.”

Immediate reactivation of the Fund

Following the announced decrees, Norway announced the immediate release of already available funding for new projects. Norway’s minister of climate and environment made the announcement on Twitter the following day: “On Day 1, President Lula confirmed his ambitions to reduce deforestation and reinstated the governance structure of the Amazon Fund. Today, I confirmed to Marina Silva Norway’s understanding that this allows for an immediate re-activation of the Fund,”

Indigenous leaders

Lula has also named two prominent Amazon defenders as ministers in his new government. Marina Silva returns to a position she once held from 2003 – 2008 as an all to Lula again. Sonia Guajajara becomes Brazil’s first minister of indigenous peoples. This is a position created to respond to growing criminal offences and land invasions against indigenous people.

“The Indigenous peoples need to have their lands demarcated and free from the threats of illegal and predatory economic activities. They need to have their culture preserved, their dignity respected and their sustainability guaranteed,” said Lula during his inauguration speech at the Presidential Palace. “They are not obstacles to development — they are guardians of our rivers and forests and a fundamental part of our greatness as a nation. That is why we are creating the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples, to combat 500 years of inequality.”

“No one knows our forests better or is better able to defend them than those who have been here since immemorial time. Each demarcated land is a new area of environmental protection,” Lula said in the National Congress. “We will repeal all injustices committed against the Indigenous peoples.”

Guajajara expressed her feelings about the election in an Instagram post reading ‘What a special da, an honor to be the first minister sworn in by President @lulaoficial! And tell the people to go forward! Demarcation now!’

Related: Deforestation In The Brazilian Amazon Breaks Previous Records

Attacks similar to invasion of the U.S. Capitol by Trump followers

After a day of political violence in the capital, Brasília, Brazil has seen far-right extremists run riot through the country’s democratic institutions. The attack was formed by supporters of the ex-president Jair Bolsonaro. The incident immediately paralleled the invasion of the U.S. capitol by Trump supporters on January 6, 2021.

It seems that many pro-Bolsonaro extremists have refused to accept Lula’s victory in the October 2022 elections. The events were in response to Lula’s inauguration. Lula was not present at the time of the attacks but has since called the attackers “vandals, neo-fascists and fanatics”. He also commented that “anyone involved will be punished”.

According to the former Supreme Court judge Marco Aurélio Mello, “It was much worse than what happened at the Capitol,” He told this to the O Globo newspaper on Sunday night after 300 arrests were made by those responsible for the attacks.