Brazil Climate Chief Goes To Davos With Call To Save The Ama...| MENAFN.COM

Saturday, 04 February 2023 12:32 GMT

Brazil Climate Chief Goes To Davos With Call To Save The Amazon And Democracy


(MENAFN- Swissinfo)

Brazil's Environment Minister Marina Silva says her country is committed to defending democracy and saving what's left of the Amazon rainforest. The World Economic Forum that opens on Monday in the Swiss town of Davos marks her first trip abroad since her appointment to the job on January 1.

This content was published on January 16, 2023 - 16:37 January 16, 2023 - 16:37 Jamil Chade, swissinfo.ch

In an interview with SWI swissinfo.ch before leaving Brasilia she said her mission was to reassure the world of her nation's commitment to fight against deforestation and to turn the page after years of a denialist far-right government responsible for the biggest spike in deforestation rates in decades. She also points a finger at Swiss refineries which continue to process gold illegally from Brazil.

The trip comes one week after the headquarters of executive, judiciary and legislative powers in the capital were stormed by supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, the former president. The violent attacks have been condemned by the Swiss government and the international community.

SWI swissinfo.ch: Your government has said they were committed to reversing former president Jair Bolsonaro's disastrous environmental track record. In your view, has the agenda at WEF given sufficient priority to the environmental challenge?

Marina Silva: It is increasingly a major focus of the Forum and its events, which is very positive. This is also because there is a will to meet the commitments of the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015 during COP21. This coincides with linking inequality and economic development which were dealt with as separate issues previously. But the declarations, which have been made in past editions of the Forum, are one thing. The results and how they are put into practice is another.

It is not enough just to make declarations. We need to have a timeline and implementation goals. This is the greatest demand from civil society. Just as governments change, the CEOs of big companies also change. So, this method of making declarations without having internalised in the structures of companies and governments the fulfilment of these goals needs to end.

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There is no point in a CEO announcing a goal, then some years later, he leaves and another one takes his place and announces the same goals. Meanwhile, the company stays in the same place. The United Nations and civil society are pressuring companies to implement these processes.

SWI: What will your message at the Forum be?

M.S: The message is that Brazil is back to playing a leading role, driven by the strengthening of democracy, the fight against inequality, and sustainability. Obviously, translating this into an effective policy is the government's greatest challenge. [But implementing this strategy] is not just up to government alone. It hinges on the capacity to create public policies in strong partnership with different segments of society, such as business and social movements.

SWI: You have made several announcements regarding the resumption of the Amazon Fund – created to raise donations and to monitor and combat deforestation – and the strengthening of environmental controls. How long will it take for the new policy to bring results and for the rate of deforestation to drop?

M.S: In the first government of [President Luiz Inácio] Lula [in 2003], we had to create an environmental protection infrastructure from scratch; at the time deforestation was already accelerating. No government had ever put deforestation as a priority. Now the Amazon is in a much more serious condition. We have a completely degraded budget, weakened public services and dismantled teams. But, on the other hand, we have the experience and know that we can do it. What I can say is that we will do consistent work. I can't talk about dates. But, more than a date, I want results.

SWI: There are indications that gold from the Amazon may be reaching Swiss refineries. What should they do to ensure that this no longer happens?

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M.S: Mining gold from the Amazon is illegal. It is produced illegally, on indigenous lands and environmental reserves, contaminating the soil and the rivers. We have images of children of the Yanomami people (a tribe living in the northern part of the country), looking as if they were in concentration camps. What refineries certainly need to do is cut off the supply of this raw material.

Citizens will not want the gold of blood, the gold of children who have their vision impaired because of illegal mining. [Chemical materials used in illegal mining] attack the central nervous system. Of every ten Yanomami children, four are contaminated by chemicals. Everybody should be concerned about this supply chain, and that gold ends up in unsuspected places. Pay attention at what you're wearing – wedding rings, necklaces. [In light of its origins], it will probably be the ugliest and most regrettable thing you can be wearing.

SWI: What can multinationals like Nestle or commodity trading companies like Trafigura and others do to help the climate agenda ?

M.S: To respond to the problems of climate change, we need governments and companies. If everyone does their homework, we will be able to rise to the challenge. If the 20 largest economies in the world resolve to act, we can solve 80% of problems linked to climate change.

Now, the financial sector and large companies have the capacity to make a big contribution. They can help by stimulating a culture in those who buy their products. Secondly, they must consistently offer products of quality and transparency. For example, when a company says that it is making its products in a sustainable way, what does this mean? What percentage of the total production meets this goal in reality?

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Another aspect is the citizen, who needs to pressure companies. This means a change in production and consumption habits. This also means a new mentality in the face of a finite world and of human beings with an infinite capacity to desire. If we wish wrongly, we will destroy the very basis of our existence.

SWI: Does the trade agreement between Mercosur – an economic and political bloc consisting of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay – and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) still come up in the environmental debate? Do you think that trade helps or increases deforestation?

M.S: It depends on how you are going to trade. If you only look at the protein and nutritional quality [of a product], or its sanitary quality, without looking at the social, ethical, environmental, cultural context; then it [trade] can be harmful. If we integrate all the other elements, it can be helpful. Trade in itself is neither good nor bad. It depends on how it is conducted and on the product.

SWI: You are traveling a week after the attacks in Brasilia. Do you believe your country's credibility may suffer due to these events?

M.S: It has already suffered a lot. And what happened on the 8th [of January] reflects the“outstanding balance” of all that came before. This was clear proof that, from the social, political and civic point of view, Brazil could not stand another four years of Jair Bolsonaro. It is a clear demonstration of the strategic importance of Lula's election.

Just as they [Bolsonaro supporters] are leaving a negative balance of deforestation and poverty, they are creating a negative image of Brazil. The important thing is that the new government reverses this. We saw the amount of phone calls that Lula received [from foreign leaders] and indications that the [Brazilian] government would not collude with any authoritarian adventure.

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