On the climate agenda, 2050 is now
By Walter Schalka*
If, overnight, we end illegal deforestation in the Amazon and be able to trade avoided carbon in the process, the country would have an additional $10 billion a year to foster a sustainable, low-carbon economy. It is a resource that, if properly invested, would promote a real revolution in improving the quality of life and generating income for Amazonian communities.
It is true that illegal deforestation in the Amazon will not be resolved overnight, but it is important to be clear that the potential generation of wealth through the carbon market is real. As well it is real the damage caused by extreme weather events, increasingly frequent in different parts of the world.
The most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reveals that part of the impacts of human activities on global temperature are already irreversible. It is even more likely that the increase in global average temperature will reach, earlier than expected, 1.5°C from pre-industrial levels. Events such as prolonged droughts and floods tend to intensify if concrete actions are not taken. And this must be done by reducing carbon emissions from now on, so that this challenge does not remain for the next generations.
Commitments to net zero carbon emissions targets in 2050, as announced by companies and governments, do not make sense, without them being accompanied by ambitious targets for the short and medium term. We can no longer accept that promises of emission cuts are announced so that, in the next minute, companies and governments emit more than before.
Therefore, COP26 is an opportunity for the regulation of a regulated carbon market linked to the Paris Agreement, in which the signatory countries have committed to carbon reduction targets. The Cap and Trade model presents itself as a viable alternative for reversing the carbon emissions curve to meet public commitments – Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – and to boost the decarbonization of the global economy, both in terms of volume and of term.
In this context, Brazil has advantages in the race to achieve an economy of net carbon neutral emissions, taking advantage of multiple natural resources. If we take the right measures, the country can become more competitive and, at the same time, improve the living conditions of the population, keeping in line with the priorities around which the world is moving. For this, it is necessary to have a journey oriented towards the construction of clear climate objectives, at the risk of being excluded from the new climate-economic order that has been consolidating in the global scenario.
As companies and governments are pushed to meet their emissions targets, excess carbon reductions become a tradable asset for those failing to meet their targets. The result will be to encourage investment in decarbonization, since the intensity of carbon emissions will become a criterion for business competitiveness.
It is in this aspect that our natural vocation as a global leader in regenerative economy stands out, with significant implications for social development. Encouraging the Bioeconomy would not only contribute to the climate, it would also stimulate the generation of jobs and add more significant value to the production chain. It would, therefore, be an important engine for the country’s sustainable development, as should the investment in universal and quality education to enable a new, fairer and more egalitarian economy.
I mention as an example of development from Bioeconomy the generation of energy from biomass, one of the clean energy options that distinguishes Brazil from many other countries. It is already a reality in the pulp and paper sector, where the sustainable planting of trees creates opportunities in other markets, such as the development of textile fibers. In this case, decarbonization acts as a substitute for fossil products. But we are aware that we must go further.
The last decade has been marked by the information technology race. The next is that of bioeconomy and biotechnology, in which the combination of the rich Brazilian biomes associated with the capacity to generate technological solutions provide unparalleled competitive differentials and that is why we need to be protagonists.
Brazil is able to emerge as a protagonist in international geopolitics through a socially inclusive environmental agenda, as long as it positions itself on the right side of the debate. It is a unique window of opportunity that the country cannot miss, and it is essential for the resumption of Brazilian credibility in the environmental scenario. Therefore, it should announce a reduction in illegal deforestation in the Amazon in the short term, which would be the basis of our discussion.
Another pillar of the discussions at COP26 should be the construction of social and environmental agendas in a collaborative model. The challenge of climate change is intersectoral, international and intergenerational, and we will only be able to be proactive and ambitious enough if the logic of competitiveness is replaced by cooperation and partnership.
Brazil’s engagement in this new global climate economic reality, through the green resumption of the economy and active participation in the Glasgow Conference, is the way to reaffirm our international protagonism, planting a more equitable environmental, social and economic legacy for the next generations . In this trajectory, all actors that propose to build a low carbon economy will have significant gains, in addition to supporting the construction of the necessary economic transition and the only possible journey. It is with this view that we must arrive at COP26.
*Walter Schalka is president of Suzano.