In Brazil, debate about climate emergency at COP27 is ‘hijacked’ by the political discussion and Lula’s presence
por Info Amazônia
Updated 6 de December, 2022 at 10:19 am
The Loss and Damage Fund, one of the main achievements of the conference, went by unnoticed by the Brazilian social networks
After two weeks of back-and-forth during the 27th UN Climate Conference (COP27), negotiators from almost 200 countries agreed to create a compensation fund for loss and damage for countries that are more vulnerable to catastrophes caused by climate change. This financing will be ensured by the richest countries in the world, the major emitters of greenhouse gases on the planet.
Although the conference made no progress in obtaining an international compromise to reduce the emissions causing climate change, the compensation to the most affected countries – particularly the poorest, located in Africa and island countries – was welcomed by specialists and activists.
The parameters of this fund are still going to be defined until COP28, happening in 2023, but the interested countries indicated amounts ranging from USD 290 billion to USD 580 billion per year until 2030. The United States and the European Union, which spent most of the conference resisting the idea, ended up accepting the conversation.
Even though it was not a highly popular topic, the Trendsmap tool found 20,600 references in English to the phrase “loss and damage” during COP27, with a peak on Saturday (29) before the decision, which happened on Sunday (30). This is equivalent to less than 4% of all tweets in English mentioning the conference’s name.
A fifth of the mentions have from Pakistan, whose human and material damage with floods in recent years were one of the major arguments for the fund.
The tool did not find a relevant number of results regarding the topic in Portuguese. Brazilians who touched on the subject did so in tweets in English or sharing texts from other countries.
Although Brazil has areas that are strongly affected by climate change, the low level of national interest for the topic may be partially explained by the fact that the country is unlikely to receive resources from this fund.
“Brazil doesn’t even have an updated climate risk survey, let alone loss and damage,” recalls Natalie Unterstell, president of the Talanoa Institute, an organization that analyzes climate policies. “The Brazilian government does not take a firm position on the subject, it has never taken a clear position, so the political signal is weak”, she explained.
Lula in Egypt
Only two weeks after the result of the narrowest election ever seen in the country, what really excited the Brazilian public was the presence of President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva at the conference. However, only a minor part of the repercussion was due to the proposals he made for a diplomatic reinsertion of Brazil in the international arena, focusing on the issue of climate change.
Both in person and in the digital debate, Brazil’s presence was virtually bipolar. While the highest representation of the current government, which is in the final months of its mandate, criticized the goals proposed by the conference, Lula’s entourage, who will take office in January, was received warmly and proposed to bring the next conference to the Amazon. This was reflected in the Brazilian digital debate, where Bubblenaro repeated its pattern.
On November 16, the day Lula spoke at COP27, Brazil was the country that commented the most about the conference on Twitter, according to data from 65,700 tweets collected on the Trendsmap platform during the period of six hours before and six hours after the president-elect spoke. Almost three out of every four posts were made in the country, and Lula’s name was mentioned in more than half of the tweets, considering all languages.
Although Lula touched on several environmental issues that he intends to address in his third term, and even extended an invitation to hold the 2015 conference in the Amazon, the Brazilian political dispute was the main focus of discussion on Twitter.
This happened partly due to the absence of the current President of the Republic, Jair Bolsonaro, at the conference, with the country’s representatives showing a timid and negationist participation, and partly due to the way in which Lula arrived at the conference – under accusations of being given a ride on a private jet owned by a businessman in the health sector, which raised a debate about conflicts of interest and even carbon emissions from the aircraft.
“This COP was marked by two Brazils”, said Maiara Folly, program director at Plataforma Cipó, who was present at the conference. “On one hand, an underprivileged Brazil, with little voice and no protagonism, represented by the Bolsonaro government; on the other hand, a Brazil of hope, which signals to the world that it is back and will take climate commitments seriously, strengthening multilateralism to face the climate emergency, ”he said.
According to Folly, Lula’s speech signaled that the climate issue will play a central role in the foreign policy of the next administration. Plataforma Cipó handed Lula a document with suggestions for public policies to help achieve this goal.
The two Brazils seen by Folly were also reflected in the digital debate, repeating the “Bubblenaro” pattern, in which the group most identified with the Bolsonaro administration discussed environmental issues inside a completely separate bubble from the rest of the world. Many of the messages posted by right-wing users focused on how the president-elect arrived at the conference, criticizing the fact that he had taken a ride on a businessman’s jet.
The analysis of posts mentioning the name of the conference posted between 5:35 am and 5:30 pm (Brazilian time) on the 16th, in all countries and all languages, showed that 73% of them were published in Brazil (17% in Brasília alone).
This video shows how global mentions to the conference skyrocketed from 12:30 pm, the time when the president-elect began to speak, and had a new peak from 1:00 pm, when comments began to accumulate evaluating what he said.
Lula was mentioned in 53% of the tweets. With that, the debate on climate itself was buried by the Brazilian political debate. See the 100 words used the most on tweets in the day of the speech, of which only three were made in Portuguese.
With a predominance of the political angle in the debate about Lula’s participation at the COP-27, the “Bubblenaro” appeared again, but in a more fragmented way:
Specific websites and regional influencers concentrated the most of the conversations. The jet used by Lula to attend the conference, as well as its environmental impact and potential conflicts of interest involved, were the favorite subject.
The influencers on the left-wing side were linked to the PT, including Lula’s profile, which transmitted the speech and posted portions of it; the elected federal deputy Natália Bonavides (PT/RN), who posted a video showing the conference audience singing the hit song “Jair Albey”; and Juliano Maderada, the author of the song. Political columnist Reinaldo Azevedo, with his thoughts on the jet, was also at the center of a good part of the conversation.
In terms of proposals, the tweets receiving the most replies included Lula’s publication promising that the next COP will happen in the Amazon.
On the other hand, the Rio de Janeiro city councilor Carlos Bolsonaro complained about the lack of mentions to land titles handed by his father.
The Digital Democracy Room at FGV ECMI is an initiative to monitor and analyze the public debate on the internet. Currently, it has partnerships to help monitor politics on the networks in Brazil and in Latin America. This content was produced by the partner InfoAmazônia.