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Biden, Brazil and Bolsonaro… & COP26

November 12, 2020 11:54 AM
By Keith Melton
Originally published by Green Liberal Democrats

From the ChairPerhaps there were some of you who thought I might have been getting ahead of myself when I excitedly `toasted` Trump`s loss the minute the Pennsylvania count started to turn blue last week. Indeed, there may still be some who are saying let`s wait and see what transpires. Biden has claimed victory, but Trump has yet to concede. However, I shall stick to my belief that the US system is robust enough to see Trump off the premises by January 20th next year.

So, I now think we can begin to look ahead and see what this all may portend for us Green Liberal Democrats. Let me first of all declare an interest. I think many of you, perhaps most of you reading this, may know that I am married to a Brazilian, so that may partially explain why I have chosen this topic to run with as my first since Biden racked up a win in the States.

Truly, however, that is only the `trigger factor`. My environmental base for this article is the consequence of the Biden win for the `lungs` of our planet, the Amazon rainforest and the fate of its indigenous peoples.

Even that has a personal dimension, however, as one of Fatima`s great grandmothers was a South American Indian. By all accounts she was something of a beauty and family history has it that she was "lassooed" by the Portuguese man who was to become Fatima`s great grandfather. It is a sort of mix between imperial misogyny and a story of true love, I think.

But let me get back to the environmental consequences of Biden`s win.

Bolsonaro`s isolation

Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, more even than Boris Johnson, is a Trumpian clone. Indeed, he is probably more Trumpian than Trump himself. He has a similar disdain for democracy. He tells lies like Trump and Johnson and he surrounds himself with `yes` men (and I do mean MEN - he is a misogynist who believes a woman`s place is in the kitchen!)

He also has a very low approval rating, although that has, paradoxically, risen during the coronavirus pandemic and I struggle to understand why. He and his family are also incredibly corrupt and his son, Flavio, a senator, was charged a few days ago with embezzlement, money laundering and criminal association, "…the culmination of an investigation that began almost two years ago" as reported in the Financial Times.

Part of the reason Bolsonaro has managed to keep his political chin above the waves, of course, has been his vassal status with `The Donald` and the strange `loyalty` Trump has shown him for doing "great things" in Brazil. But that prop, that pillar, has just crumbled away. Although Bolsonaro has, so far, kept supporting Trump`s erratic attempts to challenge the legality of Biden`s victory and is one of relatively few international leaders not to congratulate Biden on his win, I am sure he must realise Trump is a busted flush.

Joe Biden has been very outspoken in his condemnation of the Bolsonaro contempt for the special world status of the Amazon rainforest and has warned the Brazilian administration that there would be severe economic consequences if they did not start to protect the rainforest and its indigenous people. But Biden`s approach also has a carrot as well as a stick and he has suggested $20 billion support to Brazil for "protecting" the rainforest against illegal fire-raising.

As environmentalists, however, we may need to suggest a caveat to the US offer as it is apparently predicated on opening up the Amazon to US businesses, but without any of the destruction by fire that is happening currently. So far, Bolsonaro has rejected Biden`s approach saying Brazil would not accept "…coward threats towards our territorial and economic integrity". That rejection, however, was during the recent campaigning. Whether Bolsonaro may be forced to change his tune now that Joe Biden is President-elect will unfold in time of course.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris (Kamala Harris)It will be interesting to see how much influence Kamala Harris might have on this issue as time goes by. Within the new administration she is, perhaps, likely to be the stronger influence on Climate Change being moved up the political agenda, as she has a strong record of intervention on Climate Change.

It is worth noting that Bernie Sanders` strong performance in the primaries was one of the factors pushing Climate Change upwards as a key issue in the election. And Kamala Harris has been seen as representing the environmentalist wing of the Democrats to some extent. So, there is now some expectation that she will lead the charge on this issue.

There is also a link with the Black Lives Matter movement that may come into play as far as the Amazon is concerned. One of the leading speakers for the "Articulation for the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples" (APIB) Sonia Guajajara has spoken publicly about Martin Luther King`s declaration that "No one is free until we are all free" and made a direct connection between the BLM movement`s demonstrations over the summer and the struggle for security of the indigenous people of the Amazon …. See her short comment here https://amazonwatch.org/news/2020/0625-no-one-is-free-until-we-are-all-free

Her reference to "Joao Pedro" in the video relates to the, "supposedly accidental", shooting of a 14-year-old boy in a police operation in Rio during the summer. Sonia Guajajara was named in October as one of the 100 most influential people in the World.

Green Liberal Democrats and the Amazon

So, where has this article been leading up to, you may ask!? To answer that rhetorical question let me direct your attention to COP26 - the `Conference of the Parties` follow up to the Paris Accord of 2015 (and doesn`t THAT seem a long time ago!)

As I am sure you will know, COP26 was supposed to take place in Glasgow this November, but, due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown it was postponed until November 2021. Due to the postponement it seems to me that COP26 will take on a completely different dimension now that there will be a positive US input following Biden`s accession to the presidency. A meeting which Donald Trump would have ignored, but which Joe Biden will grasp with both hands, will have a completely different dynamic than if it had been held this November.

So, my "Big Idea" is that we should be organising to `punch above our weight` next year by organising a high-level `Fringe` meeting for COP26, during COP26. We should also have a preparatory session of our own as part of the Green Liberal Democrat "Summer School" next year after the local elections have been fought and generated a positive vibe in the Party!

I shall be reaching out to my contacts in Brazil and the USA to try and capture some High-Level speakers for these potential events. But I would be interested to hear confidentially from any GLD members who have any inside-track contacts who might help us with this task. (Email chair@greenlibdems.org.uk if you have)