Sunday 24 February 2019

Brazil’s hardline leader makes conciliatory Davos speech on environment

Jair Bolsonaro vowed to work in ‘harmony with the world’ despite his campaign vow to pull out of the Paris climate accord.

Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, participates in a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (Markus Schreiber/AP)
Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, participates in a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (Markus Schreiber/AP)

By Jamey Keaten and Pan Pylas, Associated Press

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has pledged to work “in harmony with the world” to cut carbon emissions, aiming to quell international concerns that his country, the main custodian of the oxygen-rich Amazon, could put economic interests over environmental ones.

The environment dominated talks at the World Economic Forum on Tuesday, and the nationalist leader struck a conciliatory tone in a keynote speech.

It was a far cry from the combative one he had taken on the campaign trail, such as by once threatening to pull out of the Paris climate accord.

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A general view of the Amazon near Manaus, Brazil (Adam Davy/PA)

Minutes after famed naturalist Sir David Attenborough spoke of the challenges of fighting climate change, Mr Bolsonaro chose his words carefully in pledging to work with other countries to cut carbon emissions, while also freeing up business.

“The environment must go hand in hand with development efforts: One should not of course emphasise one more than the other,” Mr Bolsonaro told a nearly-packed hall in the Swiss resort town, which responded with polite applause.

“We plan to work in harmony with the world, and in sync with the whole world, in terms of decarbonising the economy, reducing CO2 emissions, and of course preserving the environment,” he said in a speech that was short on details.

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Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, enters the stage (Markus Schriber/AP)

During the campaign, Mr Bolsonaro vowed to pull Brazil from the Paris accord, only to backtrack after winning and promising to stay.

Scientists say Brazil will not be able to meet its emission targets if he rolls back environmental regulations and opens up more of the oxygen-rich Amazon to mining and farming.

He also sought to play up economic prospects in Brazil at an event that has long represented business interests and global trade.

But globalism is in retreat as populist leaders put a focus back on national interests, even if that means limiting trade and migration.

Press Association

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