The Importance of Brazilian Civil Society at COP26

 The Importance of Brazilian Civil Society at COP26

Faced with diplomatic self-isolation and climate inaction, Brazilian civil society thinks and proposes solutions and alternatives for 2030 based on dialogue and science, at the most awaited and decisive COP since the Paris Agreement (2015, COP21).

By Pedro Tufic Silveira Bouchabki | YPA Brazile

Brazil, historically, has always been a protagonist in international negotiations on sustainable development. The country has the greatest biodiversity in the world (23% of all freshwater fish in the world, ​​16% of birds on the planet, 12% of mammals and 15% of all species of animals and plants), the world’s largest rainforest and plays a crucial role in the climate and ecosystem balance, both for South America and for the planet. Recognized for its exemplary diplomacy and the fulfillment of its commitments, it traditionally opens the UN General Assemblies and contributes in a technical way – and based on science – to international debates and agreements. 

With the potential to lead the transition to a new economy – regenerative and low carbon -, it was also a pioneer in initiatives, such as the first REDD+ project (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), a financial instrument developed by the Framework Convention on United Nations on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on payment for environmental services.

Today, there is a movement to build a global agenda to preserve the Amazon and to fight deforestation, where only 1% of deforestation is done legally. This agenda also goes hand in hand with the recognition of the economic forestry vocation of the Amazon and of a new economy, called “bioeconomy”, based on fruits, oils, cosmetics, food, fishing, industrial sectors; today, disconnected from the Amazon’s natural potential, and the recognition of the indispensable role of indigenous peoples as guardians and maintainers of the standing forest and sustainable use of natural resources.

However, despite its prestigious reputation, in recent years it has not lived up to its history – and it does not appear to be interested in doing anything different. The BRL 1.4 billion stoppage of the Amazon Fund 3 years ago, the criminalization of the third sector, the incentive to mining and land grabbing in indigenous lands, the new – much less strict – environmental licensing law, diplomatic self-isolation, the emptying of the ministries, the replacement of technical and career positions by personal appointments, and the severe budget cuts culminated in the dismantling and discontinuity of public policies aimed at the preservation of biomes and protection of indigenous, riverine and quilombola lands and peoples; in the increase in deforestation – and in greenhouse gas emissions – and in a new water crisis that even unfolds in the slowdown of the monocultural agricultural sector, which receives subsidies and tax incentives in the billions of dollars, against the world, which begins to realize the importance of regenerative, low-carbon and agro-ecological agriculture.  

With each passing year, the Earth’s Overshoot Day is announced earlier, and the climate emergency becomes more accentuated: from the very rise in the Earth’s average temperature, to the growing number of climate refugees, natural disasters and scarcity of resources . Since the Paris Agreement, the debate has been identified, and this is the most anticipated and decisive Conference of the Parties since then.

Countries need to formalize agreements that demonstrate climate ambitions consistent with the urgency of the moment and that provide instruments for the operationalization of these measures. It is a great and open window of opportunity for Brazil to proactively participate in the agreements and regain its relevant role on the global agenda.

The bad news – or very bad and regrettable – is that, clearly, Brazil is already the biggest disappointment of this COP26. The 4th country that kills more environmentalists in the world, whose 36 of the 40 municipalities that emit the most CO2 are not urban/industrial centers and occupy the list for “land use change” (mostly deforestation), is not represented by its head of state at the Conference; he did not send his vice-president or any of his ministers. It is certain that the current administration does not believe in vaccine – much less in science -, and the doubt is great if it understands and assumes that the Earth is a sphere.

The news that brings hope is that despite the inaction on the part of the federal government, Brazil is still well represented. “Breaking” protocols and disrupting the dynamics of the conference itself, something historic happens: subnational governments and organized civil society have articulated and are present in Glasgow, occupying spaces for dialogue and building alternative – and representative – Brazilian agendas.

In the area of country pavilions (Zone D, in the Blue Zone, a negotiation zone restricted to delegates of the parties, media and observers), there is the Brazil Climate Action Hub, operated by a large coalition of Third Sector organizations and managed by the Climate and Society Institute (iCS), Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) and ClimaInfo Institute.

There, pertinent debates have been promoted, with specialists, academics, representatives of major players in the Third Sector and the private sector, in order to discuss public policies, solutions and alternatives for Brazil, from an integrated perspective of climate justice. Today, there was even a presentation panel of the “Climate and Development: Visions for Brazil 2030” initiative, which engaged in consultations, for 4 months, with approximately 300 experts and leaders from subnational governments, communities, companies, investment funds, coalitions and private associations.

Multidimensional, complex public problems demand coordination of efforts to face them, which reveals itself as a great difficulty for the Brazilian public administration, which usually lacks a transversal perspective, fragmented into bodies with low capacity for dialogue and distant from other stakeholders and targets. IIn this context, resolution attempts are characterized by overlapping efforts with high degrees of inefficiency. 

Based on this understanding, it is observed that, once again, organized civil society develops efforts aligned with its vocation: to act concisely and pragmatically to solve problems that neither the public sector nor the private sector has demonstrated the capacity to solve. At the COP, this is evident, and the world and Brazil are grateful for it.

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