'Brazil is back' at COP27 as Lula meets US, Chinese climate envoys

Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gestures during a meeting with members of the government transition team in Brasilia, Brazil November 10, 2022. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
  • Diplomats say have increased authority to negotiate
  • Negotiating position has continuity
  • Focus on Amazon rainforest preservation

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Bringing a message that "Brazil is back" in the fight against global warming, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva met with climate envoys from China and the United States on Tuesday in Egypt for the COP27 talks, on his first foreign trip since being elected Brazilian president.

The leftist, who won his third term last month, is planning a series of meetings with national representatives in which he will outline plans to restore Brazil's credibility as a partner in global efforts to stem warming, an aide said. In the Oct. 30 vote, Lula defeated President Jair Bolsonaro, who oversaw mounting destruction of the Amazon rainforest and refused to host the 2019 climate summit originally planned for Brazil.

An EU official said Lula would also meet on Wednesday with EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans.

Lula arrived in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh early on Tuesday, ahead of his planned appearance at the climate talks on Wednesday when two of his advisers told Reuters he will deliver the message "Brazil is back".

He has promised a sweeping plan to increase environmental law enforcement and create green jobs. His team also worked to secure a jungle conservation alliance announced on Monday between the three largest rainforest nations - Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia.

Lula said on Twitter he met with U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry and China's chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua. A spokesperson also said he would hold a phone call with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

He has received more than 10 invitations for bilateral meetings with representatives of other nations, his environmental adviser Izabella Teixeira said, adding they were not being named for security reasons.

CLIMATE CLOUT AND HOPE

Three Brazilian diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media, told Reuters the country was in a stronger position to negotiate at this year's U.N. talks because of Lula's election.

They said other countries know Brazil will soon have a Lula government that has promised to take the issue more seriously than Bolsonaro, a climate change sceptic.

The negotiating position itself has been largely unchanged regardless of who has been in power.

For example, Brazil under Lula is expected to continue pushing for rich nations with high greenhouse gas emissions to pay poor nations for historic damage to the climate, the diplomats said.

Colombia's Environment Minister Susana Muhamad said Lula's election would allow renewed regional cooperation among Amazon rainforest nations to tackle deforestation, a major contributor to climate change.

"There is a new political context in Latin America," Muhamad said. "We have to work on a communal policy in the Amazon."

She said Colombia and its President Gustavo Petro, also elected this year, would support Lula's proposal for a summit of Amazon countries and developed nations interested in conservation and that the mood towards Brazil has shifted.

"There is hope," said Teixeira. "People are so happy because Brazil will be back."

Last week, sources told Reuters Lula plans at COP27 to offer to host a future U.N. climate summit and to announce the creation of a national climate authority to oversee government work to address global warming.

Lula also plans to work with state governments in Brazil to combat deforestation.

His first meeting on Wednesday will be with six Brazilian state governors from the Amazon region, who are also at COP27, his public schedule shows.

On Thursday, Lula will meet Brazilian civil society groups and indigenous representatives, as well as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Teixeira said. He departs on Friday for Portugal.

Marina Silva, a former environment minister under Lula and an adviser on his campaign, said his coming to COP shows the high importance he places on climate.

"The big message is his presence here," she told reporters at the summit.

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Reporting by Jake Spring; Additional reporting by Chiara Rodriquez in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and Lisandra Paraguassu in Brasilia; Editing by Katy Daigle, David Gregorio, Barbara Lewis, Frank Jack Daniel and Deepa Babington

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Global Climate & Environment Correspondent, based in Brazil. Interests include science, forests, geoengineering, cryosphere, climate policy/diplomacy, accountability and investigative reporting. His work on environmental destruction under Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro received awards from Covering Climate Now and the Society of Environmental Journalists. Previously based in China, he is fluent in Portuguese and Mandarin Chinese.