Brazil's Lula gets rock star welcome at Cop27

Crowds jostle to get a glimpse of the country's next president, who has pledged to reverse years of destructive environment policies

Brazilian president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attends a discussion about the Amazon Forest at Cop27. Mohammed Abed / AFP
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The chants started even before Brazil’s incoming president arrived.

“Ole, Ole, Ole, Lula Lula.”

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva — or Lula, as he’s popularly known — electrified Cop27 on Wednesday with an entrance fit for a rock star.

Supporters shouted his name and media, diplomats and officials jostled to catch a glimpse of the soon-to-be new leader, under the watchful eye of Egyptian security officers, as he appeared for an event at the Cop27 pavilion at 11am.

In his first international trip since winning October's election, the left-wing Mr da Silva was surrounded by people everywhere he went and frequently stopped for selfies and to shake hands with his many supporters.

The euphoria continued into the afternoon before his address at the crucial climate talks. More than an hour before his 5pm speech, huge queues formed outside the hall as people tried to get in. Security officers jostled with supporters desperate to see their hero before shutting the entrance. So big was the crowd that masses of people ended up in an adjacent overflow room.

In an impassioned speech that began at about 5.30pm, Mr da Silva, 77, vowed to roll back deforestation and put climate change at the heart of his agenda when he formally takes office in January.

“Civilisation and values are back,” he said. “Brazil has already shown the world the path to ending deforestation. Brazil is back.”

Under his previous administration that ran from 2003 to 2010, deforestation in the Amazon was reduced sharply. Rainforests are critical for the planet as they absorb carbon.

Crucially, Mr da Silva said more resources were needed to help developing countries deal with climate change, especially considering they had not caused the problem. Issues of finance — especially loss and damage — have divided countries at Cop27 so far with countries supposed to agree a deal by Friday.

“We need more resources for a problem that was created by rich countries,” he said.

Mr da Silva said his administration would create a ministry for indigenous people and said Brazil should host the Cop summit in 2025. Next year's event takes place in Dubai, while the following year has yet to be decided.

Quote
We have had four really bad years and he represents changes in terms of climate. It is also important for the whole world
Delcio Rodriques, Climainfo Institute

Mr da Silva, who narrowly defeated incumbent Jair Bolsanaro in the election, is not expected to appear at the official Brazil pavilion as he will not assume office until January.

His election represented a stunning comeback considering just a few years ago he was in jail on bribery charges. The conviction was later thrown out. Staff at the pavilion spoke of the huge divisions that persist in Brazil.

On Thursday, Mr da Silva is set to meet UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres before leaving Egypt on Friday.

His presence energised the normally staid pavilion space and gave hope that not all is lost at Cop27 where negotiators remain divided. “You see the crowds,” said Delcio Rodrigues, a Brazilian from the Climainfo Institute. “We have had four really bad years and he represents changes in terms of climate but also in terms of human rights. It is also important for the whole world.”

“He represents here a kind of new wind and energy. I feel very excited.”

Jose Filho, Brazil's Secretary of the Environment, said he can make a difference at the event because Brazil is now working to save the rainforest.

“The previous administration did not take care of the Amazon and this is why he is treated like a pop star.”

After his speech, the crowds — youth advocates, indigenous people and delegates — started to filter out into the Cop27 venue and some seemed star-struck.

“We need to have changes,” said one. “He is the man.”

The Blue Zone at Cop27 — in pictures

Updated: November 16, 2022, 10:52 PM
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