Environment Forum

Brazil’s Minc gains clout at home before Copenhagen

September 30, 2009

After a series of setbacks since he took office in May 2008, Brazil’s Environment Minister Carlos Minc has scored several political victories in recent weeks that give his portfolio some clout for the first time in Latin America’s largest country.

Only a few months ago Minc looked like he would follow the path of his predecessor, internationally-renowned Amazon defender Marina Silva, who stepped down in May 2008 citing opposition to her environmental policies.

He had complained to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva about a plot from the country’s powerful farm lobby and colleagues in the cabinet to undermine his green agenda.

“We were losing 3-0 and now we’re nearly tied,” one of Minc’s aides said.

Minc’s first victory was to get President Lula in September to restrict farming in Brazil’s vast central savannah region, an area rich in biodiversity that has been one of the main areas of expansion for the country’s huge agriculture.

His second victory was for the government to impose new restrictions on sugar cane planting and to ban sugar mills in the Amazon rain forest and the Pantanal wetland area. The agriculture minister, several governors, and the farm lobby in Congress had pushed hard to allow cane production in the Pantanal.

Now the next big test for Minc will be the global climate conference in Copenhagen in December. For months he has been pushing for Brazil to adopt an aggressive target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Will he manage to convince his colleagues and President Lula on this one as well?

((Picture: Brazil’s Environment Minister Carlos Minc walks next to illegal coal furnaces before they are destroyed during a raid operation aimed to protect the cerrado (savannah) in Niquelandia, 200 km (124 miles) from Brasilia, September 11, 2009. The government placed new restrictions on agriculture in its vast central savannah region. REUTERS/Roberto Jayme))

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Minc is doing a great job in the face of such tremendous opposition. His determination and honesty is a breath of fresh air in the world of green politics.

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