The importance of Brazil's upcoming elections for climate issues and the future of Amazonia

For Brazil and our partners of the indigenous territories, 2 October this year marks an important date: the elections in Brazil are coming up. Will the threat to indigenous peoples and the exploitation of their territories continue or will there be a political change?

A glance at Brazil

According to recent polls, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is well ahead of Jair Bolsonaro in the presidential race. The leftist politician received 47% of the electoral vote in a poll by Datafolha, compared to 29% for Bolsonaro1, a glimmer of hope for Brazil. But Bolsonaro is trying hard to win this election. The media is already talking about a planned coup d'état. The incumbent president is currently trying to discredit the electronic voting system, which has been working smoothly since 1996. Bolsonaro could try to challenge the result in October if he loses.2 "It would be a dream if Lula could win in the first round! In my opinion, Lula is our only chance to remove a president who is destroying Brazil in many ways. This election is about democracy, human rights and serious environmental issues," comments Juliana Lins, a Brazilian biologist and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellow at Climate Alliance. For three years, she worked at ISA, a Brazilian civil society organization dedicated to protecting indigenous peoples rights and the environment, and lived in Brazil’s most indigenous municipality, São Gabriel da Cachoeira (90 % of the population is indigenous). Through her work at ISA, she met Hans Kandler and learned about Climate Alliance, as ISA works closely with FOIRN, a long-standing partner of Climate Alliance Austria.

Much is at stake for the indigenous peoples of Amazonia

This election is particularly important for Brazil's indigenous population. They are directly affected by Bolsonaro's policies, especially through the exploitation of their territories by illegal loggers, miners or land grabbers who raise cattle. Between 2018 and 2019, an area equivalent to the size of Lebanon was deforested in the Amazon – a record high in ten years.3 An alarming Nature study in 2021 also found that the Amazon is moving from a sink to a source of emissions. The main culprits are forest fires and deforestation4, which have increased by 52.9% since Bolsonaro took office5. "Indigenous peoples and the rainforest stand in the way of Bolsonaro's governance. He favours mineral extraction and large-scale mining, vast land with a single owner, much of it monocultural and with cattle, and few rights for workers. Bolsonaro even declared he would not demarcate 'even a centimeter of indigenous lands', which is against the Brazilian Constitution that obligates the government to recognize and protect lands previous occupied by indigenous peoples," Juliana Lins explains the danger for indigenous peoples.

To make matters worse, it is not only the forests and biodiversity of the Amazon that are in danger, the lives of activists are also increasingly threatened. The murders of British journalist Dom Phillips and an expert on uncontacted and recently contacted indigenous peoples  Bruno Pereira caused a stir as recently as June. Voices have been raised that blame Bolsonaro's policies for the dismantling and destructuring of indigenous protections. He had abandoned the Amazon to criminal gangs, paving the way for the kind of violence that claimed the lives of Phillips and Pereira.6 "Unfortunately, the murders of Phillips and Pereira are very close to the reality of my own life. A very close friend was Bruno's work partner. This murder is a watershed and will be in the Amazon history books," comments Juliana Lins.

The importance of international partnerships

The political developments in Brazil and the fate of our indigenous partners concern all of us. The future of the Amazon is directly connected to the global climate crisis. It is therefore all the more important that the international community also makes a contribution. Climate Alliance has been working closely with its partner organisation COICA, the umbrella organisation of indigenous peoples in the Amazon region, for over 30 years and is committed to the idea of building bridges between the Amazon and Europe. Many Climate Alliance members translate this idea into concrete action, for example through their own partnerships with indigenous peoples or financial support, such as the German Cities of Cologne, Munich or Constance. National coordinations also maintain close partnerships with Amazonia, such as Climate Alliance Luxembourg or Climate Alliance Austria, which has been working with FOIRN, the umbrella organisation of indigenous peoples on the Rio Negro (BR), for more than 25 years. Climate Alliance also offers several funds through which financial support arrives directly on the ground. For example, indigenous peoples can receive concrete support in their fight for the rights to their territories through the financing of legal costs. A current example is the city of Radolfzell (DE), which is planning to donate 1 euro per inhabitant to two of the Climate Alliance funds for the next four years.

The current situation in Brazil makes it clear how important democracies and voting can be, also in climate action, and how interconnected the world is. The developments in Brazil have direct consequences for our indigenous partners in the Amazon, but also for the people in Europe. It is therefore all the more important that we take action. The support offered by Climate Alliance and the concrete measures taken by the members show how municipalities can support the fight for the preservation of the Amazon. This can be an incentive for further partnerships that can give indigenous peoples hope in their resistance.

Further information


  1. Reuters: Brazil's Lula maintains big lead over Bolsonaro ahead of October election –poll, URL: (Accessed on 5 August 2022)
  2. The Guardian: Bolsonaro’s attack on Brazil’s electoral system sparks outrage, URL: (Accessed on 5 August 2022)
  3. Climate Diplomacy: When a state fails to protect its native peoples, foreign and paradi-plomacy can help, URL: (Accessed on 5 August 2022)
  4. Gatti L.V., Basso L.S., Miller J.B. et al. (2021): Amazonia as a carbon source linked to de-forestation and climate change. Nature 595, 388–393. URL: (Accessed on 5 August 2022)
  5. Greenpeace: Bolsonaro is a catastrophe for the environment, URL: (Accessed on 8 August 2022)
  6. The Guardian: Bolsonaro’s ‘surrender of Amazon to crooks played role in murders of Phillips and Pereira’, URL: (Accessed on 5 August 2022)

written August 2022