Brazil loses Alfredo Sirkis, staunch environmentalist

At the beginning of July, Brazil lost an important actor of the environmental movement, one of its most experienced and staunch activists. The former congressman, Alfredo Sirkis, 69, did not survive a car accident in Rio de Janeiro. Sirkis played a key role in the discussions that first brought ICLEI to Brazil and in August, he was set to assume his first term as advisor to the ICLEI South America Secretariat Board of Directors.

Journalist, writer, environmental and urban manager and former parliamentarian are some of the professions that can be used to describe his tireless work in favor of a better world.

Founder of the Brazilian Green Party (Partido Verde), Sirkis was the current executive director of Centro Brasil no Clima (CBC). Between October 2016 and May 2019, he was executive coordinator of the Brazilian Forum on Climate Change (FBMC), in which he organized the Ratifica Já! Campaign, which led to Brazil's ratification of the Paris Agreement. As a federal deputy (2011-2015), he chaired the Mixed Climate Change Commission of the National Congress (CMMC) and was one of the Vice-Presidents of the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Commission of the Chamber of Deputies.

Sirkis was also a counselor for four terms, Municipal Secretary of Urbanism, and President of the Municipal Institute of Urbanism Pereira Passos (IPP), between 2001 and 2006. He served as Municipal Secretary of Environment in Rio de Janeiro between 1993 and 1996. He was a member of the Brazilian delegation at the Montreal Climate Conference, Bali, Copenhagen, Durban, Warsaw, Lima, Paris, Marrakech and Bonn.

During his political trajectory, when he assumed the position of Secretary of the Environment of Rio de Janeiro in the 1990s, Sirkis discovered ICLEI and played a key role in the discussions that brought the organization to Brazil.

“At the time, sharing information and case studies among network members was done via fax or mail. The exchange with the other cities was essential for the project of the Rio de Janeiro bike path, the apple of his eye ”recalls Patrícia Krantz, who worked with Sirkis as an international advisor to the Rio de Janeiro Municipal Secretariat for the Environment and also played an important role in the facilitating ICLEI’s work with ICLEI and later became chairwoman of ICLEI South America´s council.

Sirkis was set to assume his first term as ICLEI South America´s adviser in August of this year.

A convinced localist, with a firm belief in the potential of local power, Sirkis worked to implement local environmental actions that reflected global issues and agendas. He was known for his good relationships with politicians of all kinds. Not surprisingly, on July 26, he received an emotional tribute from the former Vice-President of the United States, Al Gore, during the close of his Climate Reality Project global training.

During the tribute, Al Gore presented a new name for the award, which annually recognizes the most prominent member of the Climate Reality Leaders Corps, now known as The Alfredo Sirkis Memorial Green Ring Award.

Days after his death, the current mayor of Rio, Marcelo Crivella, signed a decree that changes the name of the Leblon bicycle path to the Alfredo Sirkis bicycle path. The bike path is part of the Rio Cicloviária Network, the third largest collection of cycling paths in Brazil, running about 460 km in length.

As his last contribution, Sirkis published his new book “Descarbonário”. Completed 40 years after the classic “Os Carbonários”, winner of the 1981 renowned Jabuti Award; the work brings an agile narrative, with many witness reports as a politician and environmentalist. “Descarbonário” is centered on Sirkis' favorite theme: the decarbonization of the atmosphere as a way to combat climate change. According to him, the low carbon transition will be a strong driver of the economy and job creation.

Rest in peace, warrior of decarbonization!

This article was originally published by the ICLEI South America Secretariat.

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