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The time to de-carbonise Brazil

If Brazil is going to continue its impressive economic growth into the future, we need to rid ourselves of our reliance on fossil fuels. Bur it’s not going to be easy.

Photo courtesy of CITIC International

Photo courtesy of CITIC International

Especially in states like Sao Paulo where we have turned again to fossil fuels to supplement our drought-stricken hydro-power supply. But like other large developing country economies, Brazil cannot simply sit back while China’s growth in renewable energy grew 32 per cent last year.

While we have lead the world in bio-energy for years now, it is time we re-energise our wind and solar sectors that currently lie dormant.

This is also critical to our ability to combat climate change in light of the new global mechanism to be announced in December this year.

While the UN climate negotiations have historically maintained the importance pressuring developed countries to act on climate change, it is now shifting, and the pressure is mounting on Brazil.

We can no longer claim that we “have to pollute to continue to develop our countries”. Considering the current rate of the global renewable energy boom, it no longer makes any sense economically either.

A new development paradigm for Brazil needs to be laid out. A pathway towards a low or zero carbon economy.

However, as one of the world’s great production and agricultural hubs, it may not be so easy to aim for. In a similar manner to China and India, a substantial amount of Brazil’s emissions are “exported” to the developed world through our products.

According to Alexandre Araújo Costa, professor at the University of Ceará and a member of the Brazilian Panel on Climate Change (Painel Brasileiro de Mudanças Climáticas), this exporting of emissions is a critical factor we need to account for.

“China has become the biggest polluter in the world, but a huge part of its emissions are ‘exported’, meaning that it was emitted to produce consumer goods to be consumed in other countries, particularly the US and Europe”.

This gives Brazil, and other BRIC countries such as India and China an incredible opportunity to shape sustainable development on a global scale.

If Brazil is able to clean up its agriculture and energy sectors, we would indirectly impact the emissions of all of those countries who consume Brazilian products as well. As such, we now have the chance to regain the lead in the global trasition toward a low carbon economy.

This could also make Brazilian products more attractive on the world stage. Just as organic premiums have seen a rapid rise in popularity around the world, so too  could we see a similar trend in low-carbon products.

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Youth from Brazil, China, India and South Africa meet during COP20 in Lima to articulate activities to pressure their governments for ambicious targets. PICTURE: Engajamundo


But it is also a critical piece in the global carbon budget puzzle.

According to André Nahur, Climate and Energy Coordinator of WWF Brazil:

“in the path that we are of the emissions, the responsibility has to be shared now. We all have responsibility and the urgency of effective and efficient commitments is shared: China is the 1st polluter; Brazil is the 6th; India is the 3rd; without any effective commitments of these countries we wont have and effective treaty.”

He also noted that, “cooperation with developed countries is crucial, but the ethical and moral responsibility of creating a more resilient and low carbon future lies with all of us”.

The longer we take to implement this moral responsibility across our economy, the harder it will be to catch up to rapidly shifting economic trends. It will also make it much harder to limit global temperature rise to below 2ºC.

In order for the the Paris Agreement to be effective and for our economic prosperity to continue, Brazil must consider rapidly transitioning to a low carbon economy. This is no longer just an environmental question, but an economic imperative.


About Marcelo de Medeiros

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