Fabio Feldmann / Weston Roundtable (April 13, 2023)
Brazil has a strategic role to play in addressing issues of climate change and biodiversity. At Rio 92, Brazil established its potential for leadership in climate negotiations and is well-equipped to address these problems. It has a well-prepared, internationally recognized academic community and a well-organized civil society with enormous technical capacity. With the democratization of the country and especially with the Constitution of 1988, the themes of climate change and biodiversity gained new status with the recognition of new rights. This is especially true of the environment, and of indigenous peoples, who are the bearers of enormous cultural heritage and diversity.
With the election of Jair Bolsonaro in 2018, Brazil faced challenges to its democracy and a weakening of government institutions linked to the environment and indigenous rights. The appalling treatment of the Yanomamis demonstrates a deliberate policy of governmental omission of a genocidal character. However, with the 2022 election, the restoration of democratic institutions is underway. But, with a close election, the country is literally divided, leaving the immediate challenges of reaffirming Brazilian leadership in the multilateral environmental agenda and in the domestic plan to consolidate advances with respect to democracy, human rights, and sustainable development.
Feldmann’s contributions to the process date back to his participation in civil society in the 1980s, as a member of the Brazilian Bar Association’s Human Rights Commission and the founder of many nationally recognized NGOs. As an elected congressman, he played a key role in writing the Brazilian constitution’s provisions on the environment and in developing a significant part of Brazil’s environmental legislation. He was a member of the Brazilian parliamentary delegation at Rio 92, where he served as a key negotiator between Brazil and international governments and other stakeholders. He continues to be active in civil society and as a member of many environmental and human rights councils.
The Weston Roundtable is made possible by a generous donation from Roy F. Weston, a highly accomplished UW-Madison alumnus. Designed to promote a robust understanding of sustainability science, engineering, and policy, these interactive lectures are co-sponsored by the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Office of Sustainability.