Jair Bolsonaro's cabinet members believe that climate change is a "Marxist hoax"

On Tuesday (November 27), the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it had given up on competing to be the host of COP 25, the United Nations’ annual climate change conference, to be held in November 2019. The alleged reasons are lack of funds and the political transition the country is going through—as President-elect Jair Bolsonaro will be sworn in come January 1st.

Officials from the city of Foz do Iguaçu and the governor-elect of Paraná, Ratinho Junior, sent a letter to Brasilia defending the hosting of the event. The document argued that COP-25 could generate more than BRL 400 million in revenue and bring 35,000 visitors to a country that, despite all its natural beauty, is not attracting too many tourists

The announcement provoked reactions within the country. NGO Observatório do Clima said, in an official statement, that “it is not the first and certainly will not be the last piece of bad news from Jair Bolsonaro concerning [environmental issues].” As frustrating as these pieces of news might be, they should not surprise anyone. So far, the president-elect seems to be very much in tune with what he promised during this year’s campaign.

Climate change denial

In Bolsonaro’s political program, the environment was not an issue. The theme did not have its own section in his manifesto, while the word “environment” appeared only once—in an item that talks about agriculture. During the presidential election, he promised to pull Brazil out of the Paris Climate Change Accord. “National sovereignty is at stake because it is 136 million hectares that we lose interference over,” he said, referring to the Amazon rainforest.

Later he seemed to have changed his mind, saying Brazil would remain in the agreement—but criticized the treaty. A sign that his government might not officially leave the accord but will not work very hard to honor it. In Mr. Bolsonaro’s view, the cost of slashing emissions and deforestation would be too high for Brazil.

This hostility towards the environment should not be a surprise to anyone. Mr. Bolsonaro’s transition team is openly against the idea that the planet is going through climate change. His future Foreign Minister, Ernesto Araújo, believes it is a “Marxist hoax”. He considers that “globalism is the economic globalization that became controlled cultural Marxism.”

Congresswoman Teresa Cristina, who will head the Ministry of Agriculture, is the leader of the landowner lobby in the House and was nicknamed the “Poison Pin-up” for being one of the fiercest defenders of a bill which loosens regulations on the use of pesticides (which has yet to go to the floor).

Like Donald, like Jair

It is reasonable to assume that the current government, by withdrawing from hosting COP 25, is following the requests of the future government. Mr. Araújo is aligned with sectors that defend a nation’s sovereignty over any idea of “global governance”—a concept according to which international laws would establish guidelines to be followed by countries. Thus, multilateral treaties and conferences are rejected.

This is another area in which Mr. Bolsonaro’s government seems to mimic the Donald Trump way of conducting a government. Last year, the American president withdrew his country from the Paris Accord, prompting criticism from pretty much everywhere around the globe.

For anyone who has been paying attention, withdrawing from COP-25 makes a whole lot of sense if you follow Jair Bolsonaro’s logic. Even NGO Observatório do Clima admits, in the same statement, that the announcement is “unfortunate, yet not surprising.”

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BY Diogo Rodriguez

Rodriguez is a social scientist and journalist based in São Paulo.