Geopolitics

With The Amazon At Stake, Biden And Bolsonaro Eye Green Deal

Would an agreement with the Americans make the Bolsonaro government change course?

Framer Ita watches as smoke rises from a fire in the Amazon Rainforest
Framer Ita watches as smoke rises from a fire in the Amazon Rainforest
Natalie Unterstell

RIO DE JANEIRO — Imagine for a moment that the United States declares that it's signed a major environmental agreement with the Brazilian government, as President Joe Biden has recently declared is a top priority. Imagine the U.S. government promises to pay if there is a reduction in deforestation in the Amazon this year. It would be a "carrot" for the government of President Jair Bolsonaro to act around the protection of forests, in addition to the "sticks' that he faces in the form of reduced business and investment. It could be the long-awaited deal that changes the course of Brazil's climate and environmental agenda.

But a "green" agreement without sensible conditions and dialogue could just serve as an early award to a Brazilian government that has so far shown no intention of changing the policies in question — which serve its political base.

If Bolsonaro's government wanted to act on the environment, there would already be no shortage of money. Germany and Norway donated the 2.9 billion reais ($534 million) to the Amazon Fund, but the money remains frozen at the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES). Why? In April 2019, Bolsonaro issued a Presidential Decree that undid the so-called Amazon Fund Guidance Committee – the governing body that involved civil society, regional governments and federal bodies.

To be clear, there is also no shortage of goals to meet. For example, Brazil was required by federal law to reduce carbon emissions by between 36.1% and 38.9% — by 2020. We are late.

There would be no shortage of money, but it remains frozen at the Brazilian Development Bank.

This law also says that Brazil had to decrease annual deforestation rates in the Brazilian Legal Amazon — which comprises the nine Brazilian states in the Amazon basin. Deforestation had to drop by 80% compared to the average rates of 1996 to 2005 — deadline: last year. This would have meant cutting deforestation down to 3,925 square kilometers per year. In 2020, the deforestation rate was 11,088 square kilometers, as estimated by the National Institute of Space Research (INPE), or 2.8 times the target.

The fact that the Brazilian government didn't comply with these goals doesn't mean that it can simply abandon them. The Brazilian Supreme Court has already received an action for noncompliance, and one of its demands is that the reduction of deforestation in the Amazon be achieved in 2021.

Member of the Brazilian community in Toulouse, France protests against Jair Bolsanaro - Photo: Alain Pitton/NurPhoto/ZUMA Press

Brazil's federal government has goals to fulfill; it would have the resources to reach them; and a lot of work to do. Why look for cooperation with the US government then? For one, it provides an obvious smokescreen to divert attention. Another hypothesis is that they might set a looser goal.

Any cooperation mechanism involving forests and climate change should be subject to transparent and participatory governance, such as the Amazon Fund committee that the Presidential Decree disbanded in 2019. At minimum, any governing body would have to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples are respected and that the widely reported violations cease. But Bolsonaro never dared to sit at the table with the leaders of the indigenous movements to negotiate.

Bolsonaro and Salles have to be seen as part of the problem, not the solution.

Would an agreement with the Americans make the Bolsonaro government change course? If Environment Minister Ricardo Salles, who is in charge of the negotiations, really wants to preserve this agreement, here are some tips for how to win back the confidence of both Brazilians and Americans:

• The ruling on fines for environmental infractions is on hold. It is in the hands of the Environment Ministry to revoke the decree and other normative acts that generated this situation.

• Remote inspection operations, cheap and effective, have been discontinued — how about resuming them?

• The export control rules for timber have been weakened, yet another area to be quickly revised.

There are signs of a merger of the two main federal environmental agencies — Ibama and Instituto Chico Mendes — generating serious uncertainties about the future of environmental policy. Would he be ready to stop it? Besides, signs of law changes that could benefit those who promote recent deforestation remain strong. The Bolsonaro government would have to make a public commitment to no longer support illegal land grabbers, loggers and miners.

Would Bolsonaro and Salles be willing to face this brief list of immediate changes? I, for one, don't think so. And therefore, the two politicians have to be seen as part of the problem, not the solution.

Brazil should improve its climate goals and reestablish its environmental management system to get rid of its present pariah status in the world. It is more important than that: It can ensure global warming slows down.

But a "green" agreement between Brazil and the United States, if it comes out without concrete commitments, would do justice to the famous phrase by de Tomasi di Lampedusa, in The Leopard: "Everything needs to change so that everything can stay the same."

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

New Delhi, India: Fumigation Against Dengue Fever In New Delhi

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 வணக்கம்*

Welcome to Thursday, where America's top general reacts to China's test of a hypersonic weapon system, Russia is forced to reimpose lockdown measures and Venice's historic gondola race is hit by a doping scandal. French daily Les Echos also offers a cautionary tale of fraud in the crypto economy.

[*Vaṇakkam, Tamil - India, Sri Lanka, Singapore]

💡  SPOTLIGHT

A dove from Hiroshima: Is Fumio Kishida tough enough to lead Japan?

Japan's new prime minister is facing the twin challenges of COVID-19 and regional tensions, and some wonder whether he can even last as long as his predecessor, who was forced out after barely one year.

When Fumio Kishida, Japan's new prime minister. introduced himself earlier this month, he announced that the three major projects of his premiership will be the control of the ongoing pandemic; a new type of capitalism; and national security.

Kishida also pledged to deal with China "as its neighbor, biggest trade partner and an important nation which Japan should continue to dialogue with."

Nothing too surprising. Still, it was a rapid turn of events that brought him to the top job, taking over for highly unpopular predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, who had suddenly announced his resignation from office.

After a fierce race, Kishida defeated Taro Kono to become the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and pave the way for the prime minister's job.

A key reason for Kishida's victory is the improving health situation, following Japan's fifth wave of the COVID pandemic that coincided with this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The best way to describe Kishida is to compare him to a sponge: not the most interesting item in a kitchen, yet it can absorb problems and clean up muck. His slogan ("Leaders exist to make other people shine") reflects well his political philosophy.

Kishida was born into a political family: His grandfather and father were both parliament members. Between the ages of six to nine, he studied in New York because of his father's work at the time. He attended the most prestigious private secondary school — the Kaisei Academy, of which about half of its graduates go to the University of Tokyo.

However, after failing three times the entrance exam, Kishida finally settled for Waseda University. Coming from a family where virtually all the men went to UTokyo, this was Kishida's first great failure in life.

After he graduated from college, Kishida worked for five years in a bank before serving as secretary for his father, Fumitake Kishida. In 1992, his father suddenly died at the age of 65. The following year, Kishida inherited his father's legacy to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives for the Hiroshima constituency. Since then, he has been elected successfully nine straight times, and served as Shinzo Abe's foreign minister for four years, beginning in December 2012. A former subordinate of his from that time commented on Kishida:

"If we are to sum him up in one sentence, he is an excellent actor. Whenever he was meeting his peers from other countries, we would remind him what should be emphasized, or when a firm, unyielding 'No' was necessary, and so on ... At the meetings, he would then put on his best show, just like an actor."

According to some insiders, during this period as foreign minister, his toughest stance was on nuclear weapons. This is due to the fact that his family hails from Hiroshima.

In 2016, following his suggestion, the G7 Ise-Shima Summit was held in Hiroshima, which meant that President Barack Obama visited the city — the first visit by a U.S. president to Hiroshima, where 118,661 lives were annihilated by the U.S. atomic bomb.

In September 2020 when Shinzo Abe stepped down as prime minister, Kishida put out his candidacy for the first time for LDP's presidency. He didn't even get close. This was his second great failure.

But reading his biography, Kishida Vision, I must say that besides the two aforementioned hiccups, Kishida's life has been smooth sailing over the past 64 years.

When one has had a happy and easy life, one tends to think that human nature is fundamentally good. Yet, the world doesn't work like that. And Japanese tend to believe that "human nature is vice," and have always felt a bit uneasy with the dovish Kishida diplomacy when he was foreign minister.

Hiroshima has always been a city with a leftist political tradition. Kishida's character, coupled with the fact that he belongs to the moderate Kochikai faction within the LDP, inevitably means that he won't be a right-wing prime minister.

Kishida would never have the courage to be engaged in any military action alongside Japan's ally, the United States, nor will he set off to rewrite the country's constitution.

So after barely a year of Yoshihide Suga in office, how long will a Fumio Kishida government last? If Japan can maintain its relatively stable health situation for some time, it could be a while. But if COVID comes roaring back, and the winter brings a sixth wave of the pandemic as virtually all Japanese experts in infectious diseases have predicted, then Kishida may just end up like Suga. No sponge can clean up that mess.

Daisuke Kondo / Economic Observer

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Top U.S. general says Chinese weapon nearly a "Sputnik moment": China recently conducted a "very concerning" test of a hypersonic weapon system as part of its push to expand space and military technologies, Gen. Mark Milley, the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Bloomberg News. America's top military officer said that this was akin to the Soviet Union's stunning launch of the world's first satellite, Sputnik, 1957, which sparked the Cold War space race. Milley also called the test of the weapon "a very significant technological event" that is just one element of China's military capabilities.

Brexit: France seizes British trawler: A British trawler has been seized by France while fishing in French waters without a license, amid escalating conflict over post-Brexit fishing rights. France's Minister for Europe said it will adopt a zero-tolerance attitude towards Britain and block access to virtually all of its boats until it awards licenses to French fishermen.

COVID update: Russia confirmed a new record of coronavirus deaths, forcing officials to reimpose some lockdown measures, including a nationwide workplace shutdown in the first week of November. Germany also saw its numbers spike, with more than 28,000 new infections yesterday, adding to worries about restrictions this winter there and elsewhere in Europe. Singapore, meanwhile, reported the biggest surge in the city-state since the coronavirus pandemic began. Positive news on the vaccine front, as U.S. pharmaceutical giant Merck granted royalty-free license for a COVID-19 antiviral pill to help protect people in the developing world.

Iran nuclear talks to resume: Iran's top nuclear negotiator said multilateral talks in Vienna with world powers about its nuclear development program will resume before the end of November. The announcement comes after the U.S. warned efforts to revive the deal were in "critical phase."

First U.S. passport with "X" gender marker: The U.S. State Department has issued its first American passport with an "X" gender marker. It is designed to give nonbinary, intersex and gender-nonconforming people a marker other than male or female on their travel document. Several other countries, including Canada, Argentina and Nepal, already offer the same option.

China limits construction of super skyscrapers: China has restricted smaller cities in the country from building extremely tall skyscrapers, as part of a larger bid to crack down on wasteful vanity projects by local governments. Earlier this year the country issued a ban on "ugly architecture."

Doping scandal hits Venice's gondola race: For the first time in the history of the Venice Historical Regatta, a participant has tested positive to marijuana in a doping test: Gondolier Renato Busetto, who finished the race in second place, will be suspended for 13 months.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"End of the ice age," titles German-language Luxembourgish daily Luxemburger Wort, writing about how the ice melting in the Arctic opens up new economic opportunities with a new passage for countries like Russia and China but with potentially devastating effects for the environment. The issue of the Arctic is one of the topics that will be discussed at the COP26 Climate Change Conference which kicks off in Glasgow on Sunday.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$87 billion

A new United Nations report found that extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, floods and droughts have caused India an average annual loss of about $87 billion in 2020. India is among the countries which suffered the most from weather hazards this year along with China and Japan.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Air Next: How a crypto scam collapsed on a single spelling mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy from Laurence Boisseau in Paris-based daily Les Echos.

📲 The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system. Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation.

📝 On Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, the CEO admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

⚠️ What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond". Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


📣 VERBATIM

"A weapon was handed to Mr. Baldwin. The weapon is functional, and fired a live round."


— Following the Oct. 21 on-set shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, Sante Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza told a press conference that the "facts are clear" about the final moments before Hutchins was shot. The investigation continues to determine what led up to that moment, and any possible criminal responsibility related to how the "prop" gun that actor Alec Baldwin fired was loaded.

📸  PHOTO DU JOUR

Fumigation is used as a precautionary measure against the spread of dengue disease in New Delhi, India, where more than 1,000 cases have been reported — Photo: Naveen Sharma/SOPA Images/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Share with us your favorite gondola memories or worst crypto scams — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! - info@worldcrunch.com

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ