Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's victory Sunday in Brazil's presidential election could have a substantial impact on the future of the world's largest rainforest.

Lula, who takes office on Jan. 1, made protecting the Amazon a cornerstone of his campaign following the increased destruction of the habitat under President Jair Bolsonaro.

Climate change activists celebrated Lula's victory due to his stark differences with Bolsonaro on environmental protection. After Lula's win, Marcio Astrini, the head of the Climate Observatory lobby group, said that "the nightmare is almost over."

Lula's victory comes at a tipping point for the Amazon. Deforestation has risen 64% from the start of January to the end of March compared to the same period in 2021 and nearly 2,500 square miles of the Amazon were cleared in the first half of 2022. By reducing existing foliage, environmentalists argue the area becomes more susceptible to damage caused by fires, droughts and landslides.

Since taking office in 2019, Bolsonaro pushed for mining projects in the Amazon while decreasing funding for Brazil's Environment Ministry and Ibama, the country's environmental protection agency. A staunch supporter of private industry and deregulation, Bolsonaro's administration has largely ignored illegal mining and logging that threaten the habitat. The land is also home to hundreds of indigenous tribes, who went to the streets of Brasilia in April to protest Bolosonaro's environmental policies.

At the 2021 United Nations COP26 climate summit, Brazil's government brought forward a pledge to end illegal deforestation — it accounts for 10% of global emissions — by 2028. Many were skeptical that the goal would be possible under Bolsonaro's policies.

Lula has denounced the increased deforestation efforts and on Sunday reiterated his commitment to protecting the rainforest.

"Brazil is ready to resume its leading role in the fight against the climate crisis," Lula said from Sao Paulo, shortly after he was declared the election winner.

"Brazil and the planet need a living Amazon."

He has promised to "fight for zero deforestation," following his legacy of reducing deforestation by 80% during his time in office from 2003 to 2011. Lula is also expected to announce targets for cutting methane emissions.

Lula's ambitious environmental agenda faces hurdles from Congress, which include Bolsonaro's political allies.

World leaders praised Lula's election win as a victory in the fight against climate change.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a tweet he looks forward to working with Lula "on the issues that matter to the UK and Brazil, from growing the global economy to protecting the planet's natural resources and promoting democratic values."

Norway's climate and environment minister said it would resume sending Brazil $573 million in protection subsidies for the Amazon after halting them when Bolsonaro began his term.