President-elect Lula da Silva receives a superstar welcome at COP27 summit in Egypt as he promises to recommit the rainforest nation to tackling illegal deforestation and mining "without respite."
Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has told cheering crowds at the UN climate conference in Egypt that he would crack down on illegal deforestation in the Amazon, reinitiate ties with countries that finance forest protection efforts and push to host an upcoming world climate summit in the rainforest.
Despite a mixed record on the environment and jail time in his resume, the 77-year-old leftist politician drew crowds curious to hear his promises to protect the Amazon rainforest on Wednesday.
"Brazil is back," Lula repeatedly said, words his supporters sang during his speech at the COP27 conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh.
At COP27, Lula vowed to fight deforestation, offered to host UN climate talks in the Amazon region in 2025, and pledged to make Brazil a leader in the global battle against climate crisis again.
In two appearances, Lula laid out a vision for managing the world's largest rainforest, critical to fighting climate crisis, that was in stark contrast to that of outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro, whose administration witnessed some of the most rapid cutting of forests in decades.
"There will be no climate security if the Amazon isn't protected," said Lula, adding that all crimes in the forest, from illegal logging to mining, would be cracked down on "without respite."
Adrian Martinez Blanco, who is attending the climate conference for Costa Rican NGO La Ruta del Clima, said, "Lula represents a political change for Latin America."
"It is a shift towards the protection of the planet, the Amazon, human rights, the rights of Indigenous people," he said.
O mundo olha para o Brasil com olhos de esperança. O discurso de Lula na #COP27 foi notícia nos maiores jornais do planeta. Veja a diferença. https://t.co/8Gx0BcPo1U #EquipeLula pic.twitter.com/1q5NJJ4aL3— Lula (@LulaOficial) November 16, 2022
'Back into the fold'
During the conference, Lula also demanded that wealthy nations deliver on their pledge to provide $100 billion per year in climate finance.
Lula, who was president from 2003 to 2010, pulled off a huge political comeback to defeat Bolsonaro.
He left office as a blue-collar hero who presided over a commodity-fuelled economic boom that helped lift 30 million people out of poverty.
But he then became mired in a massive corruption scandal and served more than 18 months in prison in 2018.
His conviction was later overturned.
"It's very interesting to listen to him first hand and understand how he captures so much love from his people -- while also not necessarily being the best for the country," said Sofya Levitina, a student at the University of Connecticut, referring to the corruption scandal.
Melissa Yokoe Ashbaugh, who is studying at the same US university, said her "impression of the excitement is that he represents coming back around from a populous right-wing wave (that is) anti-environment".
"It's sort of the hope of people who are engaged in this sort of climate action space that globally, administrations like his will represent those interests," she said.
Brazilian climate campaigner Mariana Paoli, who leads global advocacy at Christian Aid, said Brazil had become a "pariah state" under Bolsonaro when it came to climate policy.
"It's so good to see Lula bringing Brazil back into the fold," she said in a statement.