Indigenous groups are ramping up pressure on Brazil’s President Luiz Ignacio Lula de Silva to put ending oil and gas extraction in the Amazon on the agenda of an historic summit set to take place in Brazil next month.
Activists see the Amazon Summit, the first in several years to discuss a 45-year-old treaty among the South American countries within whose borders the Amazon lies, as a critical moment to pressure Lula.
While Lula has positioned himself as a climate leader, he has made statements supporting oil and gas drilling, including in the Amazon, despite the warnings from climate scientists and organizations such as the International Energy Agency that the world cannot sustain any new fossil fuel projects and still limit warming to 1.5°C.
The call to end fossil fuel extraction in the Amazon comes as South American countries have instead been accelerating oil and gas extraction and exploration for domestic economic benefit.
In January, Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced a halt of new oil and gas exploration contracts in his country, and in an op-ed this month, called on his fellow Amazon nation leaders to follow suit, despite the substantial portion of Colombia’s economy that relies on the fossil fuel industry. He said it was essential for countries like the US who bear historical responsibility for climate change-causing pollution to fully support financial mechanisms to assist Global South countries in prioritizing environmental protection without sacrificing economic growth.
“We need to convince other presidents like Lula… to step up as well and really play this leadership role,” said Ilan Zugman, Latin America managing director of 350.org, which is supporting the Indigenous-led campaign, “to not allow fossil fuel exploration in one of the most important places of the world.”