Brazil has withdrawn its offer to host Latin America and Caribbean climate week, a key milestone leading up to the annual UN negotiations.
Initially set to take place from 19 to 23 August in Salvador, the event is part of a series of regional summits to encourage dialogue between governments and civil society, in support of national climate pledges.
The reversal comes months after Brazil backed out from presiding over the Cop25 UN climate summit, prompting a frenzied search for alternative venues. Chile stepped in with less than a year to prepare.
“We do not accept hosting the event because it is an action in the run-up to Cop25,” Brazil’s environment minister Ricardo Salles told national daily O Globo. “It does not make sense to host an event from the climate conference, if we are not going to hold the conference.”
In a note to participants, shared with Climate Home News, UN Climate Change said “regrets” the government’s decision and it was seeking other options in the region, but would make no official comment until it received notification in writing. A spokesperson for the UN body declined to comment to Climate Home News.
According to Salvador City Hall, the event had been confirmed last year under Michel Temer’s interim government. André Fraga, the official charged with UN liaison, was informed of the cancellation on Friday night, in a phone call from the federal environment ministry.
“I have been informed that Minister Ricardo Salles was not comfortable with holding the event in Brazil,” Fraga told O Globo. “He claimed what all of this government claim: that the event only serves as a platform for NGOs, that it is useless and that the environment ministry’s focus is the urban agenda, which has nothing to do with climate change.”
The environment minister denied having a problem with campaign groups, saying: “It has nothing to do with the participation or not of NGOs, it has to do with our main agenda which, as I said, is an urban environmental agenda. We do not support a meeting organized before our administration, with a different agenda from the one we prefer, which is the issue of the urban environmental agenda and sanitation, dumps.”
Environmentalists were quick to condemn the move. Carlos Rittl of Climate Observatory tweeted that the government was a “climate disaster”.
Brazil’s cooperation with regional environment initiatives is at a low point. Despite hosting more than half of the Amazon basin, the Brazilian government did not accept an invitation to attend the UNDP-sponsored Good Growth Conference, which began Monday in Lima.
Peruvian president Martín Vizcarra opened the ceremony promising to fight deforestation and climate change, but said these were shared challenges. “There are decisions we have to make with neighbouring countries because the [climate change] problem does not end at the border,” the president said.
The UNDP had invited two directors from Brazil’s environment ministry. Both had recently been removed from their positions and no one has been nominated to replace them.
One of the key participants at the meeting, the head of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Naoko Ishii said she was concerned about changes in Brazil since January, but that it was too early to make a full assessment.
“If Bolsonaro does what he says, it’s a risk,” said the former deputy finance minister of Japan.