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Marina Silva, former Brazilian environmental minister
Madrid, Spain

Marina Silva: Bolsonaro created 'an unwanted situation' for Latin America

In Madrid, representatives from more than 190 countries seek to move forward in the now engaged negotiations for climate change at the COP25 United Nations summit. Previously a key player in climate change, former Environment Minister Marina Silva now questions Brazil for its lack of ambition.

Silva traveled to Madrid to participate in the activities of civil society groups and indigenous peoples at COP25. In an interview with Diálogo Chino, she highlighted her concerns about the climate policies of President Jair Bolsonaro and the recent changes in Latin America.

Chinese Dialogue [DC]: What is the role of Latin America in COP25 after the change of headquarters to Madrid?

Marina Silva [MS]: We lost a lot of strength. It was an opportunity to conduct a COP in our continent, with the aim of increasing the commitments to stabilize life on the planet. But Brazil's position created a detriment to the entire continent. Brazil had a terrible influence on climate negotiations. It came with a negative view of climate change and a negative performance. Today we have a process of violence in the country against environmental leaders and a criminalization of social leaders. Bolsonaro created an unwanted situation for Latin America.

DC: The climate commitments of the region are not in line with the Paris Agreement. Could greater climate ambition be achieved in the region?

MS: I don't like the word ambition, I have difficulty with it. It is associated with something negative and because of the lack of ambition we are in this situation. But people who speak well of markets created that term for climate change. What we really need is a greater commitment to protect water, forests and biodiversity. The global context is very negative, more commitments from all countries are needed. The political crisis in Latin America is tied to the expansion of the right that creates problems for climate ambition.

DC: What results do you expect to close the COP25?

MS: More effort is needed to prevent it from being a complete failure. I hope that in the end progress is made, but the scenario is not positive. Progress here is very important. But even if we have a difficult situation here, we also have to worry about the macro scenario. The presidential elections of the United States can give victory to a Democrat and that would be very favorable for the next COP.

DC: Chile, the president of COP25, did not sign the Escazú Agreement, key to the protection of environmental leaders in the region. How important would your signature be?

MS: Agreements like Escazú are important because violence, climate change and biodiversity loss are processes that feed back. Violence that kills indigenous people occurs through economic activities that generate carbon emissions and loss of biodiversity. Escazu has to be ratified and complied with at the national level in Latin America.

DC: Latin America is experiencing profound changes at a social, political and economic level. What do these changes correspond to?

MS: I have a vision of concern with Latin America. On the one hand, there are neoliberal left and other policies without compromise with social and environmental problems. The two groups end up making a polarization. We are in a process of democracy skimming. We need policies that are guided by principles and values ​​in the region. Environment, protection of native peoples and strengthening of democracy are non-negotiable principles and values, win left or right.

DC: The indigenous peoples and civil society of Brazil have a prominent role in the COP, with activities without the federal government. How do you evaluate that division?

MS: The role of the Bolsonaro government causes sadness and outrage. Brazil always accredited civil society as part of the official delegation. This is the first time they are not given credentials. It was society itself that marked the presence of Brazil here. Bolsonaro arrives at COP25 with a denialist stance and of deconstructing environmental policies.

DC: Bolsonaro first rejected an alliance with China and then accepted it at the recent BRICS summit. What factors do you associate with that change?

MS: You must have principles and values. If I defend my national interests and my sovereignty I should not have automatic alignments with anyone. Bolsonaro loves the United States, but China is a great commercial power and he should have realized that when he took over. He is a person who has no knowledge and stature to deal with international relations.

DC: Similarly, Bolsonaro showed distance with the new Argentine president Alberto Fernández, threatening to leave the Mercosur regional bloc. How do you explain that rejection?

MS: Bolsonaro has an authoritarian and pretentious vision. Who decides on Argentina is the Argentine people. Argentina had a clean democratic process and we are nobody to question it. It does not mean that Brazil should have an alignment with Argentina, but maintaining relations is essential.

Banner image: The former Minister of Environment of Brazil Marina Silva spoke exclusively with Chinese Dialogue / Credit: Sir Leo Cabral via Flickr.