US Energy Secretary Says Brazil ‘Showing Commitment to Fighting Climate Change’

February 4, 2020 Updated: February 4, 2020

U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette on Feb. 2 said that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is demonstrating a commitment to flight climate change by promoting nuclear energy.

Bolsonaro has been criticized in the past for his skepticism toward climate change, and for prioritizing economic development over environmental protection.

However, Brouillette said that recent conversations about nuclear energy showed that the Brazilian leader was committed to tackling the environmental issue.

“I think the commitment of Brazil [to fight climate change] has been demonstrated by these conversations around nuclear energy,” Brouillette said in an interview with local and international media.

“We’ve demonstrated through the use of a very diverse energy policy that you can grow your economy and reduce carbon emission at the very same time,” the U.S. energy secretary said, adding that is it something he believes Brazil “is interested in doing as well.”

On Feb. 3, Brazilian energy minister Bento Albuquerque and Brouillette signed a memorandum of understanding increasing bilateral cooperation between the United States and the Brazilian nuclear industry. The Department Of Energy said in a statement that it “recognizes the importance of maintaining a strong energy relationship with Brazil and strengthening energy security across the world.”

“The U.S. and Brazil are on a charted path to a revitalized relationship started by our presidents. A critical piece of that journey is cooperation in energy. I’m leaving this beautiful and vibrant nation with a determination to ensure our best days lie ahead for our two countries,” Brouillette said.

“Thank you again to the Brazilian government and especially Energy Minister Bento for a successful forum and constructive discussions on how we can continue to partner in energy,” he added.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro reacts during a signing ceremony of the decree which eases gun restrictions in Brazil, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 15, 2019. (Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino)
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro reacts during a signing ceremony of the decree which eases gun restrictions in Brazil, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on Jan. 15, 2019. (Ueslei Marcelino/Photo via Reuters)

In a press conference on Monday, Brouillette said he hopes that this is “just the beginning of a close working relationship. It’s a very exciting time in energy for both Brazil and the United States.”

“As we just witnessed, the American energy industry is ready and eager to work with Brazil. This robust U.S. delegation is here on behalf of President Trump following his meeting with President Bolsonaro in Washington last year.

“Together the presidents have charged a new, exciting path forward for a revitalized relationship between Brazil and the United States, and a critical piece of that path is increased cooperation in energy,” he said.

Brouillette added: “During the ministerial talks today, we had a discussion on a range of areas including oil and gas, civil clear energy, and power and energy efficiency. I’m encouraged today by the significant steps taken to increase U.S. presence and investment in Brazil’s growing civil nuclear energy.”

According to BP, Brazilian energy consumption grows by 2.2 percent per year, much faster than the global growth of 1.2 percent per year, and the consumption of every fuel increases. However, most of the growth is in renewables including biofuels, oil, and natural gas. The country also accounts for 23 percent of the increase in global oil production between 2017 and 2040, the website states.

Last year Bolsonaro sparked controversy when he said it was a “fallacy” to describe the Amazon as the heritage of humanity, and a “misconception” that its forests were the lungs of the world after fires erupted throughout the rainforest, which is the largest in the world.

Speaking during the annual debate in the U.N. General Assembly (pdf), Bolsonaro insisted that the Amazon was not being “consumed by fire,” and accused international media of “sensationalist attacks.”

“We all know that all countries have problems. Yet the sensationalist attacks that we have suffered coming from a large part of the international media due to the fire outbreaks in the Amazonian region have aroused our patriotic sentiment,” he said.

“It is a fallacy to say that the Amazon is the heritage of humankind, and a misconception, as confirmed by scientists, to say that our Amazonian forests are the lungs of world. Using these fallacies, certain countries, instead of helping, embarked on the media lies and behaved in a disrespectful manner and with a colonialist spirit. They even called into question that which we hold as the most sacred value: our own sovereignty.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.