Speaking of climate at the National Congress
By Alice Amorim
Qualifying the climate discussion at the National Congress is an important and necessary effort that the Brazilian climate movement needs to make in order to democratize the issue and to reach out to a greater number of representatives in the cause. It was with this mission in mind that I disembarked in Brasilia at the beginning of April for an incursion into the two houses of Parliament. Dozens of interactions with parliamentarians, advisors, professionals from the legislative branch, and partners from the socio-environmental field who work in the legislative, resulted in some interesting reflections:
1) Managing the operation of the legislative houses, their vicissitudes and particularities is, in itself, a significant challenge that takes time, costs money and requires physical resistance and pragmatism.
2) The time in Congress has its own cadence, measured by the order of speaking in the committee meetings and plenary, the endless lunch lines, cocktails served in parallel ceremonies in the various halls, social demonstrations in corridors and the long intervals to get from one annex to another.
3) Many parliamentarians and professionals from the legislative (still) do not associate mobility and transport, energy and economy to climate change. If we add inequalities, housing policy and urban planning and energy efficiency, then the conversation turns to other directions that are quite different from the initial contact.
4) Few parliamentarians have a dimension of the diversity and wealth of knowledge and political force of the organized civil society and of the NGOs that work with climate change in Brazil. It is needed to invest more in the dialogue with Congress and to demonstrate that the fight on behalf of the public interest is legitimate and contributes significantly to strengthen Brazilian democracy.
2019 began as a tsunami in the Brazilian political agenda, bringing profound transformations in several departments of the federal government that are involved in the implementation of the Brazilian climate policy and the targets contained in the NDC of Brazil. This scenario of profound uncertainty, associated with the recent international experiences of a substantive change of political orientation in relation to the climate agenda, has demonstrated that the era of leaders who are enlightened and publicly committed to the cause is over.
It is no longer sufficient to have a law or a declaration by a head of state to distinguish the climate goals of the economic development models of the 21st century and much less the parameters for the choices of priority public policies that governments make. It is necessary to create resilience for the international commitments in the national political systems. More political representatives must commit to dealing urgently with the challenges that climate change imposes. More people need to understand that this is not a strictly environmental agenda and that the economic opportunities are diverse and that the consequences of omission are very serious.
There are many challenges in this endeavor, but listening live to the speech of the President of the Chamber, serves as a motivation.
"Today we are honoring fundamental areas for the equilibrium of the planet. Without the wetland areas, water cycles are interrupted. Nutrients dwindle. Species disappear and climate change is accentuated. Storms and tsunamis strengthen to cause more destruction and deaths (...)."
They know it.
Alice Amorim is a lawyer and coordinates the Climate Policy and Outreach Portfolio at the Institute for Climate and Society in Brazil.