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Brazil aiming for a leading role in Copenhagen

Article by Foreign Policy Centre

December 4, 2009

Brazil’s main objective is to show its commitment to sustainable development and its level of concern about the emission of greenhouse gases. The actions proposed by Brazil are expected to promote a 36.1 to 38.9% reduction on the emissions the country would achieve by 2020 if nothing was done. Of this total, 20% will result from an 80% drop in deforestation of the Amazon. According to estimates by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Amazon deforestation levels in 2009 will be the lowest in the last 21 years, with a 40% reduction in comparison to last year’s numbers.

Furthermore, an agricultural/ecological zoning system was developed in order to supervise the expansion of sugar-cane crops for the production of Ethanol fuel. The system allowed an increase in the crop’s plantation area, while prohibiting expansion in protected areas like the Amazon and Pantanal.

The Brazilian strategy is becoming quite embarrassing for developed countries that are not environmentally active, forcing them to accept bolder goals for the Copenhagen Protocol. More than that, encouraging them to invest more financial resources to fight climate change in developing countries. The perception behind this change of focus is that Brazil can benefit a great deal from transitioning to a low carbon economy: after all, the country has one of the cleanest energy matrixes in the world, is a world-leader in biofuels and most of its emissions (illegal deforestation) is not linked to economic growth.

Brazil is also in favour of approving regulations that enable and popularize technologies that are still protected by patents, generally owned by wealthy countries. In order to foster technology transfers, the Brazilian government has already proposed the establishment of a multilateral public fund to invest in purchasing licenses for manufacturing products and using patent protected processes and equipment. The Brazilian committee will also argue that the intellectual property regime cannot have the sole objective of protecting the copyrights of inventors.

In Brazil’s view, developing countries should fully explore their national capacities for investments in the climate agenda. However, the country also states that there is a need for an increase in financing and technology transfers. The claim suggests that if these initiatives do not come from developed nations, it will become increasingly harder to face climate change while increasing economic and social development. The contribution from developed countries is not seen as a donation, but as an international obligation.

Changing its posture towards a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, Brazil wants to be the leading name behind an international pact to fight climate change. Even though Brazil’s International Relations seem to be in good shape, the Lula administration still needs the so-called international “big break”. Since 2003, the Brazilian President has been trying a series of diplomatic maneouvres that have not been as successful as expected. In spite of the successful 2016 Olympic bid for Rio de Janeiro, one cannot forget the Honduras episode, in which Deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya took shelter in the Brazilian Embassy, inciting much controversy in international public opinion.

The Brazilian Government’s stand at the 15th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change also has a lot to do with the 2011 presidential elections. Senator Marina Silva, known for her political influence on environmental issues, has left the Labor Party to run for President.

Losing her represented a significant imbalance for the party and the President, as her candidacy makes it harder for the Government to use comparisons between President Lula and ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s Government as an advantage for reelecting the party.

The presidential elections – though not admitted – influenced Brazil’s current stand in Copenhagen, because if the country’s campaign is successful, it would represent a powerful argument for President Lula’s candidate Dilma Rousseff in her battle against Marina Silva when it comes to environmental issues.

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