Friday, October 31, 2014

Why the Result of Brazil’s Elections Could Be Bad News for the Climate

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff (Credit: AP/Eraldo Peres)  Click to enlarge.
Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff was re-elected last Sunday in what turned out to be the narrowest election in the country’s history.  The incumbent won 51.64 percent of the popular vote, beating center-right candidate Aecio Neves of the PSDB and continuing the PT’s (Worker’s Party) 12 year run in highest office.  Despite the victory, the current administration has been criticized by a large contingency of environmentalists and economists for adopting a short-sighted approach to economic development, often overlooking major environmental concerns for the sake of large scale infrastructure projects.

Brazil is a key player in the global environmental debate because it holds 12 percent of the world’s fresh water and about a third of its remaining rainforests.  It was also able to grow exponentially during the first decade of the 21st century in a somewhat sustainable manner.  The same could not be said for last four years.  Rousseff did not present any concrete environmental policy proposals during this year’s campaign, and that signals warning signs when assessing what the environmental legacy of her second term will be.

The president’s abrasive relationship with environmentalists dates back to her predecessor’s administration.  She served as the last president’s chief minister — a sort of equivalent to prime minister and the second highest position in Brazilian politics.  Her tenure in the position marked a period when most major infrastructure projects were approved and their licensing processes fast-tracked.  As a result, Rousseff fostered a hostile relationship with environmental interests during her tenure as chief minister.  Her lack of regard for environmental concerns grew to such an extent that Marina Silva, who headed the Ministry of Environment at the time, resigned in protest.  Silva, a former environmental activist from the Amazon, ran against Rousseff in this year’s election.  At one point predicted to win it all, she placed an underwhelming third and threw her support behind Aecio Neves in the run-off.

It was with this antagonistic dynamic with environmentalists that Rousseff launched her presidential campaign in 2010, but she adopted a conciliatory tone.  On the campaign trail Rousseff frequently underscored a commitment to sustainable development and a “zero tolerance” policy for deforestation, in a somewhat successful attempt to woo young voters and the environmentally-minded.  Since taking office, however, she has largely followed a policy of development at all costs, green-lighting controversial infrastructure projects of high environmental cost, de-emphasizing renewables like wind and solar in favor of dirtier forms of energy, and overseeing the first increases in Amazon deforestation since 2006.
Rousseff is coupling her strategy of hydropower expansion in the Amazon with a heavier reliance on fossil fuels.  Brazil’s ten-year energy plan funnels 70 percent of its budget to fossil fuels (much of it for offshore drilling), and only 9.2 percent of it for renewables, with environmentally questionable hydro composing the bulk of the renewable budget.

Read More at Why the Result of Brazil’s Elections Could Be Bad News for the Climate

No comments:

Post a Comment