It looks extremely promising that the Green Party did so well in the Brazilian presidential elections. The Greens had been expected to get around 14 per cent of the vote but got 19 per cent, denying the favourite an outright victory. Brazil is the guardian of the Amazon which is vital to a world haunted by global warming. But the rainforest continues to shrink at the hands of a powerful agribusiness community. The economic future of Brazil, which is predicted to grow by 7 per cent next year, must not be bought at the cost of the environment.
But the world cannot afford wishful thinking. The woman who almost won outright, with 47 per cent of the vote, was Dilma Rousseff, who has been the chief adviser to the outgoing president, Lula da Silva. Under their watch, Brazil, now the world's eighth-largest economy, stands at the juncture of strong economic growth and political stability, in a continent so often characterised by the opposite. Over 20 million Brazilians have been lifted out of poverty. Brazil ranks just after China, India and Russia in the world's four major emerging economies. It entered the global downturn late and emerged early. It has become a player on the world stage and in 2016 will become the first country in South America to stage the Olympics. Brazilian voters want more of the same.
Mrs Rousseff seemed the obvious person to deliver. She has been President Lula's chief-of-staff for the past five years, ran the country's growth acceleration programme and multibillion-dollar infrastructure development fund, and chaired the giant Brazilian oil company Petrobras. She oversaw Brazil's longest period of economic growth in three decades.
Two things foiled Mrs Rousseff's attempt at a first-round victory. The first was a last-minute corruption scandal involving a close adviser. The second was a rumour that she was about to liberalise Brazil's strict abortion law – a claim she denied but which persuaded evangelical Christians to switch their votes. The Green candidate, Marina Silva, is not just a staunch champion of the rainforest. She is also a devout evangelical.
Mrs Rousseff remains the clear favourite to win. But it would be good if she now emphasised the importance of growth which protects the environment, rather than the growth-at-all-costs dash which characterised the development of the industrialised world.
She must resist the urge to emulate the economic models that have brought the world to the brink of climate change disaster. More than ever the world needs a Green Brazil.