Bolsonaro faces growing pressure to green Brazil economy

23 September, 2020 12:00 AM printer

SAO PAULO: As the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and Pantanal wetlands bruise Brazil's international image, bankers, business executives and even agribusiness firms are calling for a greener economy, adding to pressure on President Jair Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro, a far-right climate-change skeptic, has called environmental groups a "cancer" for attacking his policies, which include pushing for protected lands to be opened to mining and agriculture in the world's biggest rainforest, reports AFP.

But he has been forced to respond more cautiously as international investors, powerful voices in the business world, and agribusiness giants such as JBS and Cargill have joined in the criticism.

In keeping with tradition, the Brazilian leader will give the first speech to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, delivered remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, Bolsonaro used the forum to condemn news on the fires ravaging the world's biggest rainforest as "media lies."

This year's speech will again touch on the Amazon, though the goal will be "to show everything we're doing" to protect it, said Vice President Hamilton Mourao, the head of the government's task force on fighting Amazon deforestation.

With countries around the world trying to chart the future of their post-pandemic economies -- not least Brazil, the country with the second-highest Covid-19 death toll after the United States -- now is the perfect time for Latin America's biggest economy to go green, said Paulo Branco, head of the Development Frontiers Institute.

"We have a great window of opportunity, and we have to take advantage of it to push for a sustainable reboot of the economy," he told AFP.

"With our huge green potential, an 'agri-environmental' agenda is the way to a faster recovery," said Marcello Brito, of the Brazil Climate, Forests and Agriculture Coalition.

His group, an unprecedented alliance of 230 environmental groups and Brazilian agribusiness companies, sent an open letter last week to Bolsonaro urging him to do more to fight deforestation in the Amazon.