THE results of Brazil’s election could prove to be a vital turning point in the fight against climate change, as long as the world is not complacent.

This week will prove to be a very interesting one politically. As I write, voters are going to the polls in both Denmark and Israel. The former sees voters participate in their second general election since 2015. The latter is holding its fifth in just under four years.

All elections are important and the results in Denmark and Israel will have ramifications for themselves and their neighbours, but Brazil’s presidential election over the weekend might just have been monumental, especially as the world gears up for COP27 in Egypt.

While the US had the Tea Party and Trump and the UK had the Leave campaign and Brexit, Brazil has also been dealing with its own dangerous chauvinism and populism in the person of Jair Bolsonaro. The former army captain is very much on the far right of the political spectrum, often espousing sexist and racist views as well as being vocally against same-sex marriage, drug liberalisation and abortion. In winning the presidency in 2018, he promised to be tough on crime with ideas such as militarising the police and loosening public gun laws.

READ MORE: We're offering a year-long subscription – at the price you can afford

As president, he sought to make good on his rhetoric while also refusing to do much about the deforestation of the Amazon, which ramped up to frightening levels. It is not for us in the developed world to tell the developing world how to manage their resources, but the destruction of the Amazon rainforest is of global significance and needed a global discussion to balance economic development with the needs of the planet.

The run-up to this year’s election was no less divisive than his first. Bolsonaro frequently said that electronic voting in Brazil was prone to vote rigging, an allegation wholly unsubstantiated and made without evidence. His rhetoric often inflamed supporters and opponents, leading to high levels of political violence during the campaign.

And after the Capitol riot by Trump’s supporters on January 6, 2020, there remains real concern that Bolsonaro would be prepared to use force to stay in office. And the result was close, close enough for bad actors to argue the toss.

The left-wing candidate, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, won the second round by a knife-edge with 50.9% of the vote to Bolsonaro’s 49.1%.

The international reaction is always instructive in cases like this and global leaders and diplomats were quick to praise Lula’s victory and state that they looked forward to working with him. Within Brazil, even Bolsonaro’s close allies publicly admitted defeat while electoral officials publicly confirmed Lula’s stunning comeback.

That being said, there remains some concern that at the time of writing Bolsonaro had not publicly conceded whilst some of his supporters have blocked off roads with their lorries.

In the face of international pressure and widespread domestic acceptance of the result, we have to hope that Bolsonaro does not follow through on his threats to reject the democratic will of the Brazilian people.

Should things proceed as expected (a perhaps naive hope), Lula will be president from January, for the third time in his long career. It’s a remarkable comeback for a man who was jailed barely four years ago by a Bolsonaro ally, with his convictions to be later annulled.

He’ll have his work cut out for him. Lula has already made a firm commitment to protect the Amazon as well as to try to heal a nation divided by far-right rhetoric. His victory alone could cut deforestation in the Amazon by 89% over the next decade, according to an analysis carried out by Carbon Brief.

The National: Bolsonaro refused to do much about deforestation in the AmazonBolsonaro refused to do much about deforestation in the Amazon

The challenge, though, is whether he can strengthen Brazil’s environmental legislation after four years of hollowing out by the previous regime.

This is where the international community can step in, and back to that better conversation I mentioned earlier. A year on from COP26 in Glasgow, it is important that states do not forget the climate crisis is the single biggest threat to all of us as a species.

The Global North, which has benefited the most from fossil fuels, has a duty to help developing nations who are the ones most at risk of climate change, but can often also help with the global efforts largely by not repeating our mistakes.

Yet at precisely the moment when global leadership is needed, the UK is found wanting. Rishi Sunak, the UK’s third prime minister this year, has confirmed he will not attend, and for good measure is preventing King Charles from attending, too.

I didn’t vote for either of them, but I’d have more confidence in Charles to advocate genuinely sustainable policy.

However, even more staggeringly, it was reported this week that the UK Government failed to deliver on its commitment to pay more than $300 million to two major climate funds. Global Britain time and again is a blustering toothless tiger.

In contrast, Scotland gets the importance of working with partners around the world, with the First Minister confirming she will attend COP27.

The Scottish Government was the first in the world to declare a joint biodiversity and climate crisis – and the first to declare a formal climate crisis at all.

We launched the Climate Justice Fund in 2012, the first of its kind. And last year, at COP26, Scotland pledged to treble its financial support for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities in their efforts to tackle the impacts of climate change.

Bold leadership on climate change is needed now more than ever. Lula’s victory in Brazil is a victory for all of us and the planet.

We will continue to make the case for climate action and I look forward to an independent Scotland working with like-minded partners to ensure a just transition and a greener future for all.