Inequality must be “priority” in climate change discussion, says Lula in Paris

The Brazilian President says there is no point in having a “very good climate” while people die of hunger

June 23, 2023 by Julio Adamor
Lula looks at Macron during a speech in which he called for help from rich countries to fight inequality across the globe—Ricardo Stuckert/PR

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made an impromptu speech during the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact, on June 23, in Paris. In addition to discussing the key topics for Brazilian diplomacy, such as deforestation, global warming, and the agreement between the European Union and Mercosur, he defended the importance of fighting inequality.

“It is not possible that in a meeting with so many presidents of important countries, the word inequality does not appear. Inequality in salary, race, gender, education, health,” the president listed, sitting to the right of the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, who is hosting the event.

“We are in an increasingly unequal world. We need to treat this with as much priority as the climate issue, because otherwise we may end up with a planet with a very good climate and people continuing to die of hunger in several countries in the world,” said Lula. According to him, Brazil “went backwards” in the recent past, “like many other countries”, and proof of this is the fact that many Brazilians go hungry today.

The Brazilian president referenced African countries several times in his speech, and strongly criticized the rich nations. He said that the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a United Nations agency dedicated to eradicating poverty and hunger, has the potential to make infrastructure investments throughout the African continent.

“If the developed world decided to finance companies to build the needs of that plan, Africa would have already made a leap in quality. Yesterday, we heard the president of Congo talking about the Congo River. As far as I know, three Itaipu hydroelectric plants could be built on the Congo River. But there aren’t any,” said Lula, who criticized the way resources are invested in some cases. “We need to stop, on an international level, proselytizing with resources. Ah, I’m going to help this little thing here, this little thing there, when in fact we need to invest in structural things that change the lives of nations.”

Lula dedicated a significant part of his speech to discussing the way resources circulate worldwide, which, after all, was the theme of the summit. He said that the “Bretton Woods institutions no longer work, no longer respond to the aspirations and interests of society,” in reference to the agreements made in the aftermath of World War II, which elaborated rules for the international monetary system. He also criticized the World Bank and the IMF for leaving “much to be desired”.


Lula again mentioned the IMF loan to Argentina during the term of President Mauricio Macri (2015-2019). “Many times banks lend money and the money lent causes the state to go bankrupt. That is what we are seeing in Argentina today. In the most irresponsible way, the IMF lent USD 44 billion to a gentleman who was president. No one knows what he did with the money and Argentina is in a very difficult situation because there are no dollars to pay the IMF.”

The president again demanded a reform of the UN Security Council, so that the organization may regain political representation and strength. And he made a connection between global governance and climate change. “If we don’t change these institutions, the climate issue will become a joke. And why? Who is going to comply with the decisions that come out of the forums that we hold? Is it the nation state? Let’s be frank. Who complied with the Kyoto Protocol? Who complied with the Copenhagen decisions, the Paris agreement? There is no compliance with because there is no global governance with the strength to decide things and for us to comply.”

The president maintains that the decisions taken during the COPs, the international conferences on climate change, will never have the power of law in each country if they need to be discussed and ratified internally, by the respective parliaments, because there will always be resistance that will take away the strength of what was decided at the international level.

“If we don’t change the institutions, the world will continue as it is. Those who are rich will continue to be rich, and those who are poor will continue to be poor,” predicted Lula.

Good Signs

The president pointed out what he considers good initiatives in the sense of renewing the institutions and the global financial logic: the creation of the BRICS bank, chaired by former president Dilma Rousseff, and the possibilities of creating the Bank of the South and also of discussing new possibilities for trade currency. “I don’t know why Brazil and Argentina have to trade in dollars; why Brazil and China have to trade in dollars. This is on my agenda and, if it depends on me, we will talk about this at the BRICS Summit. And also at the G20. We need to get more African partners to participate in the G20, as you (addressing President Macron) are doing in the G7. These forums cannot be luxury groups. We need to call the different ones.”

This article was originally published in Portuguese by Brasil de Fato.