The Biden administration’s willingness to strike a deal with the Brazilian government at the climate summit should not be underestimated. The US president wants to show that his ability to achieve results quickly is not limited to domestic politics. John Kerry, who aspires to make history as humanity’s first climate diplomat, wants to collect trophies. The American Ambassador to Brasilia, Todd Chapman, is doing everything he can not to disappoint Bolsonaro, with whom he has shared countless barbecues.
All of these actors, starting with Kerry, a former US Secretary of State under Barack Obama’s administration, do not seem impressed by the mix of incompetence and brutality that characterizes the Brazilian government. For those who have negotiated for years with the Iranians and North Koreans, the clashes with Ricardo Salles bring back memories of the children’s playground.
Nor does the United States have to worry about opposition from the big Brazilian parties. Almost everyone has opted for silence, for two regrettable reasons: the fear of being portrayed as saboteurs of national economic interests and the chronic inability to integrate the new geopolitics of climate into their programmatic agenda.
It was up to Brazilian civil society to pressure the United States against a deal with a government that everyone sees as irresponsible and dangerous. It went way beyond high profile actions, such as endorsed videos by Hollywood stars and social media campaigns. Social movements and activists have also been involved in intense articulation in the halls of Washington.
Kerry himself noted this show of force by citing civil society, as well as indigenous peoples, in his message to the Bolsonaro government ahead of the summit.
Forced to reinvent itself in the face of the decline of unions and partisan formations, civil society saw the mobilization around the defense of the Amazon as an opportunity to expand its international operations. Led by a more cosmopolitan generation and present on social networks, it found committed interlocutors in Washington. Clearly, the Biden administration has swapped out Obama’s staunch technocrats for a gang of hyper-politicized youth.
Whatever the end result, the dynamics of the past few weeks show that civil society will play a central role in Bolsonaro’s upcoming international clashes. In June, she will guide debates on the law vetoing the importation of deforestation-related products in the European Parliament, and in November, she will be omnipresent at COP26 to challenge the official discourse of the Brazilian government.
Indomitable, these new movements seem opposed to political recovery. They understand that they are not faced with an emergency device, but with an organizational innovation that will be installed over the long term. The transnational cooperation of the Amazon has emancipated itself from the federal administration, at a time when it assumes a global preponderance. Driven by resistance to bolonarism, a revolution broke out in Brazilian environmental policy.
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