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Finally, Some Good News for the Environment

Between Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva win in Brazil, President Biden's Inflation Reduction act, and the world severing ties with Russia, we may be on track to tackle climate change.

With global greenhouse gas emissions on the rise, anxiety related to climate change is at an all-time high. While the planet needs stronger efforts to protect the environment, these three recent developments could be a step in the right direction.

Socialist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was recently elected as Brazil's new president, beating out their current leader, conservative Jair Bolsonaro. Under Bolsonaro, deforestation reached a fifteen-year high in the Amazon Rainforest, one of the biggest defenses against greenhouse gas emissions globally.

Lula has promised to combat deforestation, making the fight against climate change a centerpiece of his campaign against Bolsonaro. At a victory speech in São Paulo on Sunday, Lula told his supporters that putting an end to deforestation is one of his top priorities.

“The planet needs the Amazon alive," he said. "A standing tree is worth more than tons of wood illegally harvested by those who think only of easy profit at the expense of the deterioration of life on Earth."

Lula's efforts could be challenged by industry officials, as they have actively fought against climate reform in Brazil for the past several decades. In fact, the country is one of the most dangerous places on the planet for environmental activists, who are killed in the global south at an alarming rate.

While he may face roadblocks domestically, Lula's leadership will see Brazil rejoin global negotiations to curtail environmental harm. This could prompt other South American countries to follow suit, especially as the United Nations' annual climate conference (Cop27) takes place next week.

The UN recently reported that the world has failed to meet the standards of their Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Out of 194 agreeing countries, only 24 have proposed new climate measures since last year, as global temperatures continue to rise.

Ahead of this year's summit, President Biden signed The Inflation Reduction Act, which lowers the cost of energy for consumers, as well as invests in domestic energy production that promotes clean energy.

Jennifer Layke, global director of the energy program at the World Resources Institute, told The Washington Post that the IRA's promised $369 billion in funding will begin to address the country's environmental shortcomings, as it will stay in effect regardless of if a Democrat or Republican is in office.

“The IRA, it’s an incredibly powerful tool," she said. "Frankly speaking, in the U.S. political context, one couldn’t have imagined a better tool, more suited for the U.S. economy and transition than going straight at making technology the cornerstone for us."

The upcoming Cop27 summit will be the first UN climate meeting since Russia's invasion of Ukraine. While the war has brought devastation to hundreds of thousands, it has also shifted the economic landscape in Europe to be less reliant on Russia for oil and gas.

Despite the cost to consumers, increasing gas prices caused by the war via tariffs have pushed the development of green energy, such as wind, solar, or hydroelectric power. In fact, Europe has begun pushing to end the dependence on fossil fuel once and for all.

While the developments ahead of this year's conference are significant, experts maintain that they are not enough to fully curtail climate change. Georg Zachmann, senior fellow at Bruegel, has tracked European energy policy since the invasion of Ukraine. He noted that the impending economic crisis could affect environmental initiatives, making them less of a priority when money is low.

“What we see in terms of statements is all green and fine," he explained. "But we are entering a time of much tougher choices, and for Europe in particular, where money is going to get very scarce."

Zachmann added: "The tough choices are ahead."

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