Brazil is on the verge of electing the first green president in the world
Industry and government linked to pre-salt investment very worried
By Peter Howard Wertheim-Staff writer
Executives and the Brazilian government linked to billions of dollars (USD in investments in the massive pre-salt oil and gas reserves estimated at 50 billion to 100 billion bbl are not sleeping well these days.
Environmentalist Marina Silva has taken the lead in Brazil’s presidential race, and is getting set to bring the hopes of disenfranchised minorities to the forefront of Brazilian politics.
Why is the oil industry and the government having nightmares?
Ms Silva runs on a platform of greater energy diversity, more wind, solar and ethanol, protection for the Amazon and other moves to maintain Brazil in the face of a rapidly changing and demanding economic environment.
“Sustainable development is a global trend that can be seen in China, India and elsewhere. If I win, of course I want to make Brazil a symbol of that trend. It won’t just be us, but we have enormous potential,” she said in a recent address.
Ms Silva was born into a poor, mixed-race Amazon family, but has climbed the political ranks to her current spot as Brazil’s presidential candidate in the October election. Marina Silva suffered hunger in her youth, was born in the Amazon region, was a rubber tapper. She only learned how to read and write at the age of 16. She became a teacher, was elected city councilman, Senator and was appointed Environment Minister by former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva the predecessor of President Dilma Rousseff who is now tied in the public opinion polls with Marina Silva for the first Round of Brazilian presidential elections on October 5. If no candidate gets 50% plus one of the votes there will be a run off election and polls show Marina Silva also tied with President Rousseff in the second round.
She has performed strongly in the first TV debate between candidates, and polls have shown she will be highly-placed in the first-round vote on October 5.
Many consider it a spectacular turn of events given that Silva did not even have a party this time last year.
“If elected, Marina will be the greenest president in history, the first black president in Brazil and the first to be born in the Amazon,” Brazilian journalist Altino Machado has told The Guardian.
“She has proved her credentials as an environmentalist and protector of the Amazon. She also has a very strong ethical code and is totally free from any taint of corruption, which is extremely rare in politics in Brazil, where scandals happen all the time.”
Victory is far from certain several weeks before the election but local reports say Mr Silva’s momentum only seems to grow, and she has a a genuine chance to become the world’s greenest president yet.
As the Guardian reports; “Women are hugely under-represented in Brazilian politics, but it is not because of her gender that Silva could break the mould. That has more to do with the colour of her skin and ideas.”
As Minister of Environment, Marina tackled two enormous challenges: the accelerating rate of Amazon deforestation, and the political isolation and lack of strength of the environment ministry.
The first big test was the ‘Plan to Combat Amazon Deforestation’, which resulted in a major revolution in the way public policy for the region was developed and implemented. The plan was founded on three pillars: combating illegal activities, land zoning and titling, and support to sustainable production activities. It made all industries, in particular those responsible for economic development, co-responsible for deforestation.
In three years, her plan saw a 57% reduction in the area deforested, thereby ensuring that 1.5 billion trees remained standing and avoided 500 million tons of CO2 emissions, representing around 14% percent of the total emission reductions required by developed countries as per the Kyoto Protocol.
Other programmes included the organisation of three ‘National Environment Conferences’, which engaged adults and children nation-wide with the cause of environmental protection.
Marina has received numerous international mentions, including being part of The Guardian’s ’50 People Who Could Save the Planet’ list (2007), and highlighted by Time magazine as a ‘Hero of the Environment’ (2008). More recently, she was named as one of the top global thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine, for taking ‘green’ mainstream.
Other Awards include;
Goldman Environmental Prize in the South and Central America category (1996)
Selected as one of the “25 Women in Action in the World for Life on Earth” by the United Nations Environment Programme (1997)
Recipient of the “World Rainforest Award” by the Rainforest Action Network (2008)
Recipient of ‘The Duke of Edinburgh’ medal, awarded by WWF International (2008)
Peter Howard Werteim is a staff writer of Scandoil, based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil :He can be reached