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Lula summons ministers amid congress push to limit environmental powers

Brazil's former President and presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva holds a news conference along with former minister of environment Marina Silva in Sao Bernardo do Campo, on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil on Oct. 30, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has summoned his environmental and indigenous affairs ministers for emergency talks after a push by the congress to dilute environmental powers.

The summon on Thursday came after a congressional committee approved a bill that severely limited the ministries' ability to oversee the environment.

It marks Lula's first significant confrontation with a new conservative congress in the wake of significant victories for right-wing lawmakers in last year’s election.

“The game has begun,” Lula said at an industry event in Sao Paulo. “Now we are going to play and talk to Congress.”

On Wednesday, the congress approved a proposal that weakened the mandate of the environment ministry, removing its control over the rural land registry and other duties.

The bill also de-authorized the ministry of Indigenous peoples' power to demarcate Indigenous lands.

Lula's Environment Minster Marina Silva blamed congressional allies of far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro for going against her and those seeking to strengthen Brazil's climate goals.

“At this moment, we are being threatened,” she said. “Democracy is being threatened, environmental policy is threatened … It's difficult to manage this situation.”

Greenpeace Brazil’s Luiza Lima voiced Lula’s concerns.

“A day of profound setbacks for the environment and for Indigenous peoples," said Lima, adding that even with Bolsonaro out of power, his “project of destruction” is intact.

Last week, environmental controller Ibama said that it won’t allow the request of state-run oil giant Petrobras to drill at the mouth of the Amazon River near Amapa state.

Environmentalists welcomed the decision, but it troubled far-right lawmakers.

The fossil fuel industry threatens global ecosystems and human livelihoods, and scientists have repeatedly warned of its catastrophic climate change effects.

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