Brazil's Newly Elected President Has Some Horrifying Plans For The Amazon Rainforest


60% of the Amazon rainforest - the largest and most biodiverse tropical rainforest in the world - is in Brazil. Filipe Frazao/Shutterstock 

On Sunday, Jair Bolsonaro won the Brazilian presidency with a 55.2 percent share of the vote, beating his opponent, Fernando Haddad, by more than 10 percentage points. 

If you haven't heard much about Bolsonaro, he is a loud and proud racistmisogynist, and homophobe who is pro-torturepro-dictatorship, and once told fellow politician Maria do Rosário "I wouldn’t rape you because you don’t deserve it”.


Bolsonaro ran for the Social Liberal Party (PSL), which isn't particularly liberal or socialist but instead runs on a platform of social conservatism and pro-market policy. Yet he was able to achieve the lion's share of the vote by appealing to a disillusioned and angry population tired of the corruption they see corroding their national politics.

His populism and far-right agenda has earned Bolsonaro the nickname "Trump of the Tropics". Like his namesake, he has announced his intentions to take Brazil out of the Paris Agreement, which could be another blow to the international effort to curb climate change as it would invalidate Brazil's commitment to limit greenhouse gas emissions brought about by the deforestation of the Amazon. (The country has pledged to decrease carbon emissions by 43 percent of 2005 levels by 2030.)

But that's not all. Bolsonaro has aligned himself with the National Congress' so-called "ruralista" bloc, which supports the interests of large landowners and agricultural businesses in opposition to conservationists and the environment. In the lead up to the election, he talked about relaxing environmental protections, opening indigenous territories to mining and has even proposed a plan to construct a large, paved highway through the Amazon rainforest.  

During his campaign, Bolsonaro spoke of plans to remove land protections for indigenous people, dispel international NGOs like Greenpeace and WWF from the country, and dismantle Brazil's Environmental Ministry. The latter, if things go his way, will be placed in the hands of the Agriculture Ministry run by agribusiness, which has a less-than-supportive interest in sustainability and the environment.

Jair Bolsonaro at a presidential debate. plopes /

"Instead of spreading the message that he will fight deforestation and organized crime, he says he will attack the ministry of environment, Ibama, and ICMBio," said Edson Duarte, the country's current environment minister, The Guardian reports.

Ibama and ICMBio are both federal environmental agencies responsible for tackling illegal mining, logging, and deforestation but Bolsonaro has said he wants to remove their environmental licensing powers. "It’s the same as saying that he will withdraw the police from the streets," Duarte added.

Why is this important? Brazil is home to 60 percent of the world's largest tropical rainforest, the Amazon – essentially one of the world's largest carbon sinks. In fact, it soaks up so much carbon that it effectively nullifies the region's greenhouse gas emissions but already it is taking up a third less carbon than it did just a decade ago. Between 2005 and 2012, the rate of deforestation in the Amazon shrunk by 20,000 square kilometers (7,700 square miles) a year to 6,000 square kilometers (2,300 square miles) a year and it would be a shame to see that trend reversed.

But hope is not lost. Bolsonaro himself has been fairly vague and extremely inconsistent with his environmental policies. While he has said he will exit Brazil from the Paris Agreement on multiple occasions, he has also (more recently) said that he wouldn'tHis manifesto also shows support for the expansion of renewable energy. 


And, of course, Brazil is not a dictatorship but a democracy, albeit one some commentators say looks a little vulnerable right now. If Bolsonaro does want to follow through on his environmentally-unfriendly promises, he has the Brazilian Constitution and the Senate and Congress to contend with. 


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