Since it came to power, the Bolsonaro regime has put environmental interests on the backburner
What to make of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s pledge to make efforts to save the Amazon rainforests? Since it came to power, the Bolsonaro regime has put environmental interests on the backburner; Bolsonaro would have probably put it even farther beyond if that were possible. His track-record on the Amazon rainforests, let alone other environmental concerns, inspires very little faith over his pledge. The Bolsonaro administration has waylaid environmental law enforcement agencies, has blamed environmental activists for environmental crimes, including man-made fires that consumed large tracts of the Amazon. He has even undermined the indigenous populations that have lived in the rainforests for centuries and have contributed greatly to its conservation. What’s more, his rhetoric has emboldened the forest timber and land mafia, while his administration has directly or indirectly aided businesses that have been tied to destruction of the Amazonian rainforests.
Now, at the US president Joe Biden’s summit meeting, Bolsonaro seemed to change colours, and committed to working towards addressing climate change and the destruction of the rainforests, and sought US funding for the purpose. Bolsonaro’s gambit is clever; while US senators pressed upon the Biden administration to make any financial assistance to Brazil related to the Amazon conditional on the Bolsonaro government making “significant and sustained progress” on “reducing deforestation and ending impunity for environmental crimes”, etc, Bolsonaro knows the world can’t afford to let him play havoc with the rainforests, which are an important carbon-sink for the entire planet. Preservation of the forests will need intervention from the developed world. This will have global-environmental-negotiation leaders grappling with the question: Can Bolsonaro be trusted to do the right thing?