Climate Change Is a Secondary Issue, Says Future Minister Of Environment

Ricardo Salles says that until now, Brazilian environment policy decisions have been based on "guesswork"

Brasília and São Paulo
Ricardo de Aquino Salles, former São Paulo's Secretary of Environment, has been appointed by Jair Bolsonaro to head the Ministry of Environment - Divulgação

Appointed on Sunday (9th) by president-elect Jair Bolsonaro (PSL), the future Minister of Environment Ricardo Salles classifies the debate around climate change as "pointless" at the moment.

Salles, a lawyer, told Folha that his goal is to "develop Brazil. We will preserve the environment with no ideology and in a very reasonable matter."

"We will respect all those who work and bring Brazil forth, not only in farming but also in all industries, including infrastructure," he said.

The future minister also said that there are practical issues to be addressed at the beginning of the administration, such as the preservation of soil and water, and recovering areas affected by deforestation. However, he declined to talk about climate change. "Right now this debate is pointless."

Salles ran for House Representative for right-wing party Partido Novo in the 2018 elections but didn't gain a sear. He is one of the founders of the conservative movement "Endireita Brasil" (Straighten Up, Brazil). When asked about how his relationship with environmentalists, Salles said: "Everyone will be respected and heard."

Salles gained notoriety during his campaign for a House seat because of a social media post in which an image of rifle ammunition was suggested as against an array of issues: left-wing politicians; Brazil's Landless Workers Movement; crimes in rural areas, the theft of farming equipment and supplies as well as cattle; and the "boar plague."

Bolsonaro's ideas for the Ministry of the Environment have been the target of controversy even before the election. During the campaign, he promised to merge the department with the Ministry of Agriculture but eventually backed out of the idea after pressure from environmentalists and ruralists.

Salles appointment comes in the wake of negative repercussions generated by the Brazilian government's withdrawal from hosting the UN Climate Conference COP25 in 2019. Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has declared that the reason was lack of budget, Folha reported that those issues had already been resolved.

With Salles, Bolsonaro concluded the appointments for his 22 ministries, seven more than promised in his "lean government" policy proposed during the campaign.

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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