On March 3, 2023, civil society organizations in Rio de Janeiro united for a local response as part of the Global Climate Strike and held an event in Manguinhos and Jacarezinho favelas to galvanize against the devastating impacts of climate change in the favelas and call for government action. Below is an English-language translation of the manifesto published and signed by the coalition of organizations involved, which has been distributed in communities and will be delivered to Rio City Government.
No mayor in the state of Rio de Janeiro or even in Brazil has the right to say they’re surprised by the occurrence of torrential rains, landslides, and huge floods. The increasing frequency and intensity of rains due to climate change cause deaths, illnesses, damages, and suffering.
The northern coast of São Paulo state has suffered the socio-environmental impacts of over 600mm of rainfall in one day—a staggering intensity of rainfall that destroyed various neighborhoods, with a death count of 40 up to carnival Sunday, February 19. Emergency measures are needed, as well as measures for adapting to climate change. Cities need to prepare, this can no longer be put off!
The city of Rio de Janeiro is completely vulnerable in the face of extreme weather events, especially low-income communities. Environmental racism produces drama and tragedy, mainly for black people, women and children who live in areas most exposed to the effects of climate change. They are victims of a historical debt in which the State’s fragile housing policy leads them to ‘live’ on hillsides, riverbanks, or floodplains and lose loved ones and material goods. They’re impacted psychologically, become homeless or are uprooted from their homes.
What has the Rio de Janeiro city government done in terms of structural preventative initiatives (public works), structuring initiatives (communication, education, mobilization), and rescue, recovery, and reconstruction initiatives for managing risks and crises in the face of disasters like the rains of February 5-11? What can people do in their neighborhoods when faced with so much suffering? Do people understand the risks involved? If it’s difficult to answer these questions, it means something is very wrong and it explains, to some extent, why we are so vulnerable. The answer is in us organizing and demanding effective public policies now!
Laws, plans, and programs have in fact been published during current Mayor Eduardo Paes’ previous terms in government and need to be put into action. For example the ‘Municipal Policy for Climate and Sustainable Development provision for establishing goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the city of Rio de Janeiro’ and the ‘City of Rio de Janeiro Climate Change Adaptation Strategy.’ The Global Climate Strike is held every year as an international event to warn about climate change and people’s suffering, especially the most vulnerable. For this year’s Global Climate Strike on March 3, the Rio de Janeiro Climate Coalition, Forum for Climate Change and Socio Environmental Justice, Fase, Cebes, Rio de Janeiro Health Forum, Asfoc, Sustainable Favela Network,* and the People’s Watchdog Network for Sanitation and Health decided to hold the event in Manguinhos and Jacarezinho, with a 9am walk from Jacarezinho to Manguinhos to document the situation in the area and listen to the communities.
The aim is to draw people’s attention to the seriousness of global climate change and the consequences on our city and country, and to demand effective commitments for initiatives of adaptation and protection of life from leaders at all levels of the State apparatus.
This Manifesto has been distributed in the communities and we will deliver it to the Rio de Janeiro city government requesting a public hearing with the Climate and Environment Secretariat so we can have concrete answers aiming to protect the life of various residents of low-income communities and the city in general. Together we will confront environmental racism and fight for favela rights!
We’re counting on the support of everyone who has long fought for the socio-environmental cause, for improvements in sanitation, in support of safe, dignified housing, for reforestation and urban tree planting, transport and urban mobility—in other words for the improvement of living conditions and health for our people. Join us!
List of Demands of Rio de Janeiro City Government:
1. Make effective the ‘Municipal Policy for Climate and Sustainable Development provision for establishing goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the city of Rio de Janeiro’ (2011) and the ‘City of Rio de Janeiro Climate Change Adaptation Strategy’ (PCRJ, 2016).
2. Immediately implement the Carioca Forum and Municipal Fund on Climate Change and Sustainable Development, including adaptation measures in Rio de Janeiro.
3. Answers on what has been done based on the studies and surveys in the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission Report on Floods led by councilor Tarcísio Motta during the Crivella administration in 2019 which analyzed the lack of government planning and impacts on the population with over 100 recommendations.
4. Greenhouse gas emissions coming from [steel company] Ternium and other companies that are part of the Steelworks Complex in the West Zone must be counted as part of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. It’s shameful this doesn’t already happen!
5. Support and give responses to communities in the development of a People’s Watchdog and Favelas Contingency Plan in the face of extreme weather events.
6. Concrete actions for environmental sanitation, dredging rivers and channels, hillside protection, in defense of upgrading, safe and dignified housing, for reforestation and urban tree planting, transport and urban mobility, and improving the living conditions of our people.
Manifesto Signed By:
1. Rio de Janeiro Climate Coalition
2. Forum for Climate Change and Socio Environmental Justice
3. FASE – Solidarity and Education
5. Rio de Janeiro Health Forum
6. Fiocruz Workers’ Union – Asfoc
7. Sustainable Favela Network
8. People’s Watchdog Network for Sanitation and Health
9. Rio de Janeiro State Free Conference for the Environment and Agriculture (Clemaarj)
*The Sustainable Favela Network (SFN) and RioOnWatch are projects of NGO Catalytic Communities (CatComm).