Alfredo Sirkis – Brazil loses a front-line defender of the environment


Trail-blazing journalist, politician, author and scriptwriter, Alfredo Sirkis was among the earliest activists advocating for environmental preservation in Brazil. A Green Party founder, he was the executive director of the Brazil Climate Centre (CBC – Centro Brasil no Clima) and coordinated the Brazilian Climate Change Forum until 2019. He was also a leader of the movement urging Brazil to ratify the Paris Agreement in 2016.

As a young man back in the 1960s, Sirkis joined the student movement, engaged in the struggle against Brazil’s military dictatorship, as a member of the People’s Revolutionary Vanguard (VPR – Vanguarda Popular Revolucionária). During eight years in exile, when he lived in Chile, Argentina, Portugal and France, he began his career as a journalist, initially working for Libération, directed at that time by Jean-Paul Sartre.

Back in Brazil, he launched the best-selling Os carbonários, which won the esteemed Prêmio Jabuti prize in 1981. Five years later he set up Brazil’s Green Party (Partido Verde), and in 1988, was the top-voted city councillor in Rio de Janeiro. Subsequently, he was appointed the Municipal Urban Planning Secretary, and then the President of the Municipal Urban Planning Institute (IPP – Instituto Municipal de Urbanismo Pereira Passos). As Rio’s first Municipal Environment Secretary, he reforested over 6,000,000 m² of cleared land in 47 low-income communities.

He is also remembered as a keen supporter of cycle paths: at his direction, eighty kilometres of lanes were laid for cyclists. “He was a man ahead of his time. His broad-ranging vision allowed him to understand the present from the standpoint of a promising future. Tireless in the struggle for human rights, protecting the environment was his main rallying-cry. He never conformed to the political mediocrity around him,” said architect Luiz Fernando Janot, who is a member of the UIA2021RIO Executive Committee.

As a federal Congressman, Alfredo Sirkis chaired the Joint Congressional Commission on Climate Change, and was the Vice-President of the National Defence and Foreign Affairs Congressional Commission. He was also a member of the Brazilian Delegations to the United Nations Climate Change Conferences held in Berlin, Montréal, Bali, Copenhagen, Durban, Warsaw, Lima, Paris, Marrakesh, Bonn and Katowice. He also ran as a candidate in the 1998 Presidential elections.

This 69 -year-old author of ten books was on a publicity tour for his most recent work on climate change (Descarbonário), when he was involved in a fatal car crash in the hills behind Rio de Janeiro, on the way to visit his mother and son. “An irreparable loss among the defenders of the environmental cause and urban life in Brazilian cities,” adds Janot.

Click on the following link for a livestreamed glimpse of the launch of his book – Descarbonário – a moment when Alfredo Sirkis was relaxing among friends and relatives, sharing his extensive expertise and wise thoughts on humankind and the environment.



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