Igrejas Ecocidadãs

19 June, Rio de Janeiro

‘Often people come to Brazil for football and often for Carnaval – and that’s fine. But this time people have come to Rio for the environment and that’s great!’ – Marina Silva, ex-Brazil environment minister and ex-Presidential candidate speaking at the Cupola dos Povos today.

It’s 10 in the morning and the sprawling venue for the Cupola dos Povos (People’s summit) is abuzz with people from Brazil’s many indigenous groups moving across the park, protest marches, and the sound of samba drums to attract people to the many seminars happening on justice issues and the environment, including the final side event (of 7 over the past 3 days) organised by Igrejas Ecocidadas (church eco-citizens). Tearfund supports this movement of Christians in Brazil around the environment and climate change and this side event here discussed the campaign they have organised over the past few months which has led to more than 4000 people sending campaign postcards to President Dilma and more than 1200 emails sent in just the last month alone.  This campaign ahead ahead of Rio+20 is very much the first step in getting the church in Brazil much more involved in practical actions such as recycling and conserving water as well as campaigning for better policies at city, state and national level. Tomorrow members of the movement will be making the journey to Rio Centro, the venue for the Rio+20 summit.  The photos below show some of their hopes and perspectives.

The distance – both physical (2 hours by bus if the traffic is bad as it has been most days) and in the nature of the discussions – between this summit and the official negotiations at Rio Centro is immense.  The distance between what so many people want and need from the Rio+20 summit and the low ambition of the official negotiations is also far too great. And it looks like we are heading for a final text with low ambition far away from the ambitious outcome that the world’s poorest people and the planet needs.

In seeking to understand Brazil’s approach to the Rio+20 negotiations it is important to think about the Brazilian political context coming into this summit. Discussions over the controversial forest code legislation in Brazil over the last months  revealed damaging divisions in Brazilian politics. This means that it is very difficult for Brazil to show the leadership needed here in Rio+20. Even so there have been concerns on Brazil’s approach in seeking an agreed text even when some countries wanted further discussion to increase the ambition.

Brazil is now the world’s 6th largest economy and the direction this country takes will be crucial to global efforts on climate change and the environment.  And whatever the final agreed text is from this summit the government of Brazil will be well aware that the Igrejas Ecocidadas movement will provide a strong and distinctive civil society voice in discussions in the coming crucial few years if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.

 

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