‘Brazil is back in the world’: President-elect Lula gets rock-star welcome at Cop27 and vows to save Amazon

Brazil’s president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, universally known as “Lula”, arrived at Cop27 in Egypt on Wednesday to a rock-star welcome and declared: “I am here to say to all of you that Brazil is back in the world.”

Hundreds of people overflowed into the hallways as he spoke at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit on Wednesday night following a day of events that included Amazon state leaders. He hugged supporters and took selfies amid chants of “Ole, ole, Lula, Lula.”

The arrival of Mr da Silva has been highly-anticipated at the global climate summit as the fate of the Brazilian Amazon hangs in the balance.

Mr da Silva told the audience that the climate crisis would have “the highest profile” in his government along with efforts to fight deforestation in the world’s largest rainforest. He also said that the climate fight was intertwined with the struggle against poverty.

Deforestation in the world’s most biodiverse rainforest dropped to record lows during Lula’s previous term as president from 2003 to 2010, and climate watchers are anxious to see if his leadership can restore the vital ecosystem.

Earlier on Wednesday, he made several jabs at Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s populist president who he narrowly beat in last month’s election. Under Mr Bolsonaro’s policies, the Amazon has been decimated by logging, ranching and mining operations.

“Brazil can’t remain isolated like it was these last four years. (Officials from Brazil) didn’t travel to any other countries, and no other countries travelled to Brazil,” said Mr da Silva, who will take office in January.

Mr da Silva also said that he would seek to host Cop30 in 2025 in the Amazon rainforest.

“It’s important for it to be in the Amazon. It’s important for the people who defend the Amazon, the people who defend the climate, to closely get to know what the region is,” he said.

Despite the crowd-pleasing statements, climate activists from Brazil noted that the president-elect has so far been silent on oil and gas exploration.

Brazil currently has the fourth-highest number of potential oil and gas exploration licences, according to a report published by Oil Change International on Wednesday.

“We’re really happy that Lula decided to go to Cop27 with his first statements mentioning that he will fight to reduce deforestation in the Amazon,” Ilan Zugman, Latin America managing director of climate activist group, 350.org, told The Independent.

But he added: “If Lula really wants to address the climate crisis, he can’t only keep an eye on deforestation, he also needs to have solid plans for a just energy transition in Brazil and to reduce oil and gas expansion in the country. So far, unfortunately, he hasn’t mentioned a lot about that.”

On Thursday, Lula will meet with civil society and indigenous groups, as well as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

This story was published with the support of Climate Tracker's COP27 Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship