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Overflowing Brazil delegation brings flair to climate talks

PARIS (Reuters) - Once in a while at the global climate talks in Paris, the sea of mostly dark business attire is broken up by flashes of orange, yellow and red feathers from the spectacular headdress of Brazilian campaigner Jose de Lima Kaxinawa.

Brazilian Jose de Lima Kaxinawa, party overflow member, uses his cellphone during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) in Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 3, 2015. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

De Lima Kaxinawa belongs to the Kaxinawa, also known as the Huni Kuin, a tribe that lives in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil and Peru and whose way of life is under threat from deforestation.

He is also one of hundreds of Brazilian “party overflow members” at the climate talks, by far the biggest number of any country. Party overflow members wear purple stickers showing they can be asked to leave meetings if there is no space.

This is because Brazil has once again applied its unique open door policy under which anyone can join the government delegation if they pay their own way. And so Brazil has brought 800 government delegates to the climate talks - by far the most.

Other countries with large representations included China and the United States, although exact numbers were not immediately available. In total, about 20,000 government delegates are in Paris for the talks, along with 20,000 other types of attendees, including campaigners, observers and journalists.

“We are very inclusive,” Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, a former Brazilian Foreign Minister, told Reuters of the policy.

Wearing traditional dress or casual clothes instead of the more formal garb of such events, Brazilian campaigners are a constant presence at the venue north of Paris, lobbying in corridors and halls for causes led by the protection of the rainforest.

Francinara Soares Martins wore bone earrings and brightly coloured feathers as she handed out posters. She said she was there to bring attention to the Bare indigenous people of northern Brazil, who she says can help protect the rainforest from farming.

“The government isn’t doing enough to slow deforestation,” she said.

Access to the venue is much easier if you belong to a national delegation said Luciano Frontelle, 25, another “overflow”.

Frontenelle works for a website that demystifies some of the impenetrable terms used in the global climate talks, like ADB or INDC. (Here’s a Reuters decoder ring:

“We’re trying to make it more enjoyable, easier to understand,” he said, handing out stickers saying “sexify the climate”.

Some other attendees have been less than amused by the size of the Brazilian delegation. At the previous summit six years ago in Copenhagen, Brazil brought 900 delegates and the resulting crowds meant some people had to queue for hours in the freezing cold to get accreditation.

In Paris, there have been almost no queues. Still, some other delegates, including scientists and journalists, have been frustrated by the limited number of accreditations because of a lack of space.

But the size of national delegations is unlimited. Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said she saw no reason to begrudge Brazil. “Every country brings the team they want,” she said.

And perhaps it is just as well that the Brazilian delegation is the most visible, because so far it has not been the most vocal at the talks: Other large countries such as China, the United States have been taking the lead at meetings.

Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky