Forecast: Brazil - national climate change plan

Law 12.187 of 29 December 2009 institutes the National Climate Change Policy of Brazil. While debate rages on over whether or not Copenhagen was effective, Brazil has taken a meaningful step to reduce its projected greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions by approximately 37% by 2020. Much of this reduction will come from cuts in deforestation rates. In addition, projected anthropogenic emissions will be decreased through measures such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, and the Brazilian Emissions Reduction Market (MBRE).

Brazil’s commitment, while voluntary, is realistic and, from a practical standpoint, binding. It is realistic because much (if not most) of Brazil has successfully reduced deforestation rates by at least 50% since 2004, thanks to its satellite deforestation monitoring system. The tendency is for monitoring to continue and deforestation to be reduced, if not inverted by 2020. Law 12.187 is politically binding because all the major political parties aspire to portray themselves as environmentally sound. Not meeting the greenhouse gas reduction targets (despite being voluntary), would be too risky for whichever political party happens to be in power.

Law 12.187 also supports the development of the Brazilian Emissions Reduction Market (MBRE). How exactly and to what extent the MBRE will be implemented remains to be seen. An increasing number of large companies already report their GHG emissions through Brazil’s GHG Protocol Program, and a growing number of companies participate in voluntary carbon credit markets.

Even though important questions remain about which countries should make larger commitments, how to measure emissions, and how to implement mitigation and adaptation, the fact is that all seven of the largest emitters (China, United States, European Union, Indonesia, Russia, Brazil, and India) have committed to what each considers significant reduction targets. To economists, environmentalists, and businesses, Brazil’s National Climate Change Plan may have its weaknesses. Whether it is environmentally effective or not, time will tell. However, Law 12.187 has implemented a politically significant and economically achievable goal.

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