Lula’s Defining Moment

Lula da Silva
President of Brazil Lula da Silva

In the pursuit of a transformational leader development, it is of great value to reflect on specific points of moments in life, illustrating the essence of who Lula, in this case, aspires to be as a leader. A climate leader recognizes the urgency of addressing climate challenges and strives to infuse sustainability and environmental consciousness into every choice they make. By embodying this approach, leaders can drive positive change and contribute to a more sustainable and resilient future for all. 

Lula’s defining moment as a climate leader was throughout his speech at the COP27 summit in Egypt. Lula vowed to end illegal deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and to make his country a leader in the global fight against climate change. The statements, which came two weeks after Lula won the Brazilian election, signalled a departure from the policies of Jair Bolsonaro. The speech resonated with attendees and garnered international attention, solidifying his position as a prominent advocate for climate action. One of the notable highlights of Lula’s speech was his assertion that “spaces of power can still be occupied by those who seek fair solutions to the problems that humanity faces together”. 

Moreover, Lula said that climate change would have the highest profile in his government. Upon arrival, he “received a superstar welcome at the COP27” just a week after his electoral victory at home. At the summit, he declared that  “Brazil is back in the world”. As Brazil is home to 60% of the Amazon, Lula says that “there is no climate security for the world without a protected Amazon”, stating that Brazil is prepared to address the climate crisis and underline the country’s dedication to environmental stewardship. 

Among the pledges he made, Lula recommended to the United Nations to host the 2025 climate conference in the Amazon. Additionally, Lula challenged wealthy nations to honour their pledge of providing $100 billion annually to assist developing countries in adapting to climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Brazil’s current era is marked by numerous crises, including escalating geopolitical conflicts, the resurgence of nuclear warfare threats, shortages in food and energy supplies, the decline of biodiversity, and an unacceptable surge in disparities. 

Lula’s speech concluded with an exceptional message of hope, emphasising the critical need for united and resolute action, both in the present and the future, to safeguard both the planet and humanity. In Brazil, deforestation rates have reached alarming levels, learning of concerns about the loss of biodiversity and contributing to climate change. However, deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon fell by 33.6% in the first six months of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s term compared with the same period in 2022. The significance of Lula’s speech extends beyond his world alone. Even before reentering office, Lula’s attendance at and involvement in the COP27 summit showed his sustained influence and leadership in international climate discussions.

Moreover, Lula’s COP27 speech marked a defining moment for Lula, encapsulating his vision for a greener planet and a fairer world. He emphasised the necessity of all nations working together to address the climate catastrophe in a way that echoed a call to action for global solidarity. As Lula positions Brazil as a willing and active participant in international efforts, he aims to demonstrate the country’s commitment to environmental protection and its pivotal role in shaping a sustainable future. 

The COP27 speech clearly solidified Lula’s position as a climate leader. The timing of the event was very important, as he used the summit to take a few swipes at Bolsonaro, whom he defeated in a runoff election shortly before in October, giving Lula a tactical chance to control the narrative surrounding his campaign. As a prospective leader, Lula’s robust commitment to addressing environmental issues showcased his capacity to drive meaningful change, unequivocally positioning him as the candidate best equipped to prioritise and effectively tackle environmental concerns. Lula, then president-elect, delivering a strong and compelling speech at a major international climate conference like COP27 enhances his image as a leader, showing his commitment to global climate action. It allows him to address climate challenges in Brazil and beyond, demonstrating his understanding of the urgency of the climate crisis. By addressing climate issues on the international stage, Lula presents himself as a statesman with a global perspective, capable of representing Brazil’s interests in the international arena.

Moreover, the COP27 speech by Lula emerged as a defining moment due to a combination of factors. During his first two consecutive terms,  Lula has had some main proposals in his government plan including the reconstruction of the country facing the  economic crisis; with democracy, and peace, the fight against poverty, with education, and the implementation of housing programs. While environmentalism was a priority for his administration back then, it was not his flagship policy among the others.

Importantly, Lula’s defining moment captures two significant changes. First, there has been a tremendous shift in international attitudes towards climate change and global governance. When he was last president, in 2004, the Kyoto Protocol was implemented. This introduced the concept of financial contribution for climate change initiatives overseas. However, not many recognised the importance of its implementation. One reason could be attributed to the challenges faced in enforcing emissions reduction targets among participating countries, as well as concerns about the economic impact of compliance, which led to scepticism and limited enthusiasm for the agreement. Today, environmental policies are more important due to the increased awareness of the impacts of climate change, including the economic and social benefits. 

Second, Lula’s position as a political leader and his motivations contribute to the significance of the COP27 speech. In the first 100 days of Lula’s presidency, Brazil faced a whirlwind of challenges that tested its leader’s resolve. The political agenda of Lula confronts a difficult battle. In order to further his policy objectives and bring about significant change, the president will now need to navigate this complicated legislative environment with skill. The president will have to exhibit tactful political manoeuvring to build consensus and push through his agenda. It’s been a period of transition as the nation deals with the fallout from the Bolsonaro administration and works to reestablish itself on the international stage.

IExRAIA Summer Research Program:

This article is an excerpt from a report on Lula da Silva produced as part of an RAIA research program on climate leaders. For a full picture of Lula da Silva’s climate leadership read the full report. This project was fully financed by IE University’s School of Politics, Economics and Global Affairs.

Authors: Lana Francella & Maxima Riep

Editor: Francia Morales

Project Lead: Joshua Dario Hasenstab


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