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    Should Brazil Get More Credit for Climate Change Steps Already Taken?

    By Keith R | February 21, 2007

    Topics: Biofuels, Climate Change, Energy & the Environment, Energy Efficiency, Environmental Protection, Renewable Sources | No Comments »

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    This one has been sitting in the backlog queue since November, demanding to be finished and released. Recent comments by Environment Minister Silva gave me a new reason to do so and a “hook” to hang it on besides!

    Just as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in Paris earlier this month its latest prognostication on global climate change and its probable impacts, Brazil’s Environment Minister declared to the press that Brazil has been setting the example for other countries to follow on this issue. To combat global warming, Marina Silva declared, everyone — governments, corporations, scientists, NGOs and every citizen — must act and work together. Brazil is not exempt:

    “O aquecimento traz conseqüências nocivas para a agricultura, os ecossistemas, sobretudo num país cuja matriz energética depende fortemente de hidrelétricas, que dependem de água. O Brasil, que tem geração elétrica majoritariamente baseada em fonte hídrica, pode ter problemas também nas florestas, nas zonas costeiras, nos assentamentos humanos, nos sistemas energéticos e industriais, com reflexos na saúde humana. São questões de ordem econômica, social, ambiental, que afetam principalmente as populações mais pobres.”

    [roughly translated: “(global) warming brings noxious consequences to agriculture, ecosystems, above all in a country whose energy matrix depends strongly on hydroelectric, that depends on water. Brazil, whose electricity generation is mainly based on water sources, can have problems too in its forests, in the coastal zones, in human settlements, in energy and industrial systems, with impacts in human health. These are questions of economic, social, environmental order, that principally affect the poorer populations.”]

    Brazil, she asserted, is already doing its part, even though the Kyoto Protocol (currently) does not impose emission reduction targets on it. Its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions are even above the average for countries with such obligations under the Protocol, she claimed.

    How is it contributing? She noted the following:

    Crib Notes?

    It sounds like Marina Silva was conducting a scripted preemptive strike to disarm those who might claim Brazil is not doing enough to combat global climate change and thus needs quantitative targets set for it in the next version of the Kyoto Protocol, doesn’t it?

    Hardly surprising. One of the oft-heard criticisms of the Protocol since its drafting (particularly from, hypocritically, many US critics of the pact) was that it did not impose binding obligations on the GHG emitters most likely to substantially increase their emissions in the 21st century, namely Brazil, China and India. The perceived need to bind them under global instruments had much to do with the Group of 8’s (G-8) invitation to these three countries to “dialog” on the issue.

    So Marina and her colleagues knew they had to prepare a strong case that Brazil is already doing its share, if not actually doing more, proportionately, than some of the G-8 themselves.

    cover of the CCAP reportI can’t prove that they actually used it in preparations for making the Brazilian case, but I strongly suspect that the Environment Ministry has read the publication released by the Washington-based Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP) in November 2006, Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in Brazil, China & India: Scenarios and Opportunities Through 2025. The synthesis report in English covering all three nations can be downloaded for free, as can a summary “fact sheet” for Brazil in either English or Portuguese.

    The gist of the report is that all three countries already have taken “unilateral actions” that cut GHG emissions and that their efforts should be recognized in some fashion in future international climate policy. In the case of Brazil, CCAP argues that if existing policies and programs adopted since 2000 are fully implemented as now planned, Brazil will have made a 14% GHG emissions cut below projected “business as usual” (BAU) levels by 2020. Most of the reductions have been financed domestically, independent of the CDM, so once this added to the mix, reductions may be even greater.

    Where does CCAP see the cuts coming from? Well, CCAP of course mentions PROINFA, ethanol program and the flex-fuel technology. But it also cites two factors not highlighted by Marina:

    Source: CCAP

    The report suggests that full implementation of existing policies and programs, plus a few select additional measures, could reduce GHG emissions by 2020 from seven key sectors to nearly 30% below BAU projections, a reduction equivalent to 147 million metric tons CO2 (MMTCO2), more than the total GHG emissions in 200 from cement, electricity, iron and steel, light-duty vehicles and pulp and paper combined (see table).

    Source: CCAP

    These additional measures include:

    CCAP stresses, however, that the Brazilian efforts will all be for naught if the US and Europe do not do their part to cut GHG emissions and other developing countries are not encouraged to take similar steps. It particularly suggests altering current international climate policy (as it is embodied in both the Kyoto Protocol and official lending and aid in this field) to provide incentives to developing countries to voluntarily “pledge” such “unilateral” cuts and then reward in some fashion those that actually implement them.

    — Keith R

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