Representation in Politics is Essential for Brazil’s Promotion of Climate Justice

Representation in Politics is Essential for Brazil’s Promotion of Climate Justice

All around the world governments are experiencing the demand for intersectionality as a fundamental principle in environmental decision-making. That is to say, inequity needs to be considered when public policies are created in order to address both social justice and environmental issues. This is particularly relevant for Brazil, that, as a developing country, often sees the need to combine environment conservation, poverty eradication, and economic development.

Brazil is a country of continental dimensions, it has a very complex and dynamic economy as well as being a resource-rich country and a large agricultural producer, but it is still a developing country marked by inequality of access to resources. This means that there should be explicit consideration of ethics and justice issues in the formulation of Climate Change policies, which does happen to a certain degree. However, Brazil’s historical promotion of land conflicts, with people being attacked and pushed off their ancestral land so that those in power can exploit resources — trees, minerals, petroleum, water — for private profit and to fuel an unsustainable global economy based on over consumption and waste, leaves a lot of gaps to be mended.

Under former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the main concern was poor people, who would suffer the consequences of unsustainable patterns of development. Brazil officially stated that not only economic interests drive its GHG reduction targets but also ethical obligations to those who are most vulnerable. Additionally, many mentions were made of ethics and justice on climate specific directives, both for domestic policy making and in Brazil’s statements in international agreements and diplomacy stances. This would highly suggest some movement towards the right direction for Brazil’s path towards intersectional environmentalism in the last decades.

However, the persistent lack of representation of gender and race among the Brazil’s decision-makers makes it difficult for Brazil to address issues of climate justice. Although women represent over 50% of Brazil’s population, of the 513 deputies in the congress, only 77 are women; of the 11 positions on government Board of Directors (including alternates), female deputies occupy only two; and of the 25 permanent commissions only 4 are chaired by women. Furthermore, even though the majority of Brazilians are not white[1], less than 20% of political positions (including governors, mayors, and others) are of other ethnicities. More shocking, there are about 1 million indigenous people in Brazil, and yet only 2 government deputy ministers were ever of indigenous ethnicity, in all of Brazil’s political history (a man that served from 1983 to 1987 and the first female indigenous politician Joênia Wapichana that was elected in 2018).

The fact that vulnerable groups are not properly represented in Brazil brings a very pressing threat to the implementation of climate change policies. Put simply, there can be no climate justice when such groups have less input and involvement in the decision-making, political, and legal processes that relate to climate change and the natural environment.

For example, it was quite important that the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), a Brazilian government body that establishes and carries out policies relating to indigenous peoples, has had relevant participation in international discussions on climate change and its interfaces with indigenous peoples, since COP16, in 2010.  President Jair Bolsonaro, however, attempted to dissolve FUNAI, hopping to handle reservation demarcations of indigenous territories through the Agriculture Ministry. Furthermore, he withdrew Brazil from hosting COP25. Both of these actions are a direct threat to climate justice.

Activity Rating: * Falling behind

There can be no climate justice if key groups, such as women, people of color and indigenous people/local minded communities, continue to be underrepresented in politics. Moreover, the current government is walking backwards on many advances that were made to promote intersectional environmentalism in Brazil, posing a considerable threat for indigenous people that are already facing the consequences of climate change.

Take Action:

Please send the following message to the policymaker(s) below.

Dear Deputy Joênia,

We thank you for your commitment to amplify the voice of indigenous and local minded communities of Brazil, which is a crucial step to promote climate justice in Brazil. We ask you to consider the implications of climate change in such communities in your projects, and urge you to encourage more participation of women, people of color, indigenous people and other groups to politics. That is the most important action to promote intersectional environmentalism in Brazil.


Ms Joênia Wapichana

Federal Deputy of Brazil


Telefone: (61) 3215-5231

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Luiza Martins Karpavicius:  Contact:


[1] , About 50% of brazilians are self-reported blacks and other ethnicities of people of color, including afrodescendents, “pardos”, and others)

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