The Amazon’s future rests on the result of Brazil’s national election, according to experts quoted in a report by The Guardian.

Following the close result of first voting round on 2 October, left wing candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will now face far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in a second-round vote on 30 October.

Lula won the first round with 57M votes, or 48% of the total to Bolsonaro’s 43%. But Bolsonaro’s unexpectedly high share – polls had expected him to win 36% or 37% – had shattered predictions that re-election was beyond his reach in the second round, The Guardian wrote on 3 October.

Both candidates fell short of the more than 50% of valid votes needed to prevent a second round.

Experts say the rampant destruction under President Bolsonaro could push the world’s biggest rainforest past an irreversible tipping point, according to an earlier report by The Guardian on 1 October.

In contrast, scientists estimated that a victory for the former President Lula, who oversaw a sharp decline in deforestation when in power, could lead to a 90% drop in the destruction of forests, the report said.

The Amazon rainforest plays a vital role in the global climate as a vast store of carbon dioxide, but recent research showed that fires and tree felling have left the region emitting more CO2 than it absorbs. Researchers demonstrated in March that the Amazon was approaching a tipping point, after which the forest would be lost, with profound implications for the global climate and biodiversity, The Guardian wrote.

Bolsonaro became president at the start of 2019 and had slashed environmental protections and promoted colonisation of the forest, the report said, with research showing that CO2 emissions doubled in 2019 and 2020 compared with the average over the previous decade, driven by soaring deforestation and fires as law enforcement collapsed.

Almost 1M ha of rainforest has been burned in the past year, according to the latest data reported by The Guardian.

“Bolsonaro has dragged Brazil back to the wild west days we thought we’d left behind,” Adriana Ramos, from Brazil’s Instituto Socioambiental, which works to protect Indigenous peoples and their forest homes, was quoted as saying before the first round of voting took place.

“It’s no exaggeration, then, to say that the Amazon’s fate rests on the outcome of our election… If Bolsonaro wins another term in office, the world’s biggest rainforest could pass its tipping point. If he loses, we have the chance to bring it – and Brazil – back from the brink.”

If he wins, Lula has said he would reverse Bolsonaro’s legal changes, reform environmental agencies and drive illegal miners out of Indigenous lands, The Guardian wrote on 1 October.

Under the presidency of Lula and his Workers’ party successor, Dilma Rousseff, deforestation fell by 72% from 2004 to 2016, according to an earlier report by The Guardian on 30 September.