After four years of isolation, Brazil returns to the international scene with a new progressive government at a time when climate change occupies a central place in international relations. How can Brazil incorporate the climate and the environment in its strategy abroad? The project “Climate and international strategy: new directions for Brazil” proposes priority lines of action for Brazil’s role abroad, with a focus on climate and sustainable development.
The project aims to identify convergences between climate (mitigation, adaptation, losses and damages, climate financing and climate justice) and the pursuit of socioeconomic development, in order to ensure the well-being and dignity of all Brazilians. Only by combining these two spheres can Brazil produce a sustainable, sovereign and solidary approach. This strategy must be based on two pillars: the promotion of inclusive, solidary and sustainable development and the defense of a multipolar, democratic and fair global order.
The project is part of an effort led by Plataforma CIPÓ in partnership with the Perseu Abramo Foundation.
The project is led by Plataforma CIPÓ, a Brazilian independent, non-profit research institute that works at the intersection of the climate and international relations agendas. Its headquarters are in Rio de Janeiro.
The Perseu Abramo Foundation is a Brazilian institute for research, dissemination and political training created on May 5, 1996 by the Workers’ Party to develop projects of a political-cultural nature.
The project also relies on inputs and dialogue with representatives from different sectors: social movements and civil society organizations, including groups with under-representation in spaces of power; the public sector; private sector; and academia, among others.
A cooperação sul- sul e triangular deverá ser um instrumento fundamental para a nova política internacional do Brasil para o clima. A África deve voltar a ocupar um lugar central para a política externa brasileira. Não apenas o Brasil deve reconstruir seus laços de relações profundas com o continente, com ênfase na reconstrução da cooperação sul-sul e da retomada das relações comerciais e econômicas, mas também deve inseri-las em um processo político mais profundo, com o alinhamento dos interesses políticos e comerciais do Brasil e dos países africanos. Neste sentido, é fundamental que a retomada da política africana do Brasil tenha as agendas de clima e meio ambiente como centrais. Para fortalecer os componentes climáticos dessa cooperação, o Brasil pode ampliar os intercâmbios nos temas de soberania alimentar, no qual a Embrapa já exerce papel fundamental de cooperação técnica, e de soberania energética, com ênfase no processo de eletrificação do continente e sempre incorporando a preocupação com a geração de renda e empregos dignos à concepção de transição justa e soberana. Neste processo, o Novo Banco dos BRICS (NDB) deverá ter um papel fundamental. Deverá ser prioridade, também, a ampliação dos acordos comerciais, seja no plano bilateral seja via acordos por blocos e organizações regionais. Uma forma de assegurar um alto grau de competitividade das exportações brasileiras passa por aumentar a sustentabilidade da sua agricultura, criar sistemas de certificação confiáveis e com ampla aceitação e inovar em mecanismos de devida diligência eficazes e compatíveis com o sistema multilateral de comércio e regras da Organização Mundial do Comércio (OMC).
The first step towards restoring Brazil’s lost credibility internationally is to reverse the high rates of deforestation and forest fires, particularly in the Amazon. In 2023, the most pressing measures required in the field of climate governance include reinforcing government institutions such as Ibama, ICMBio and Funai and revoking and replacing regulatory acts (the so-called “boiadas”) that contributed to the dismantling of climate governance and environmental bodies. Equally important measures include upgrading and improving deforestation-focused control and prevention plans in the Amazon and the Cerrado, ramping up inspection efforts (on-site and remote), duly enforcing penalties and improving the traceability of beef, soy and other commodities responsible for pressuring the forest. At the international level, Brazil should signal its unquestionable dedication to protecting its environment. One of the first measures should be to announce a more ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), together with a plausible and transparent emissions reduction strategy. Brazil should additionally resume its bilateral cooperation with partner countries and endeavor to enhance international fundraising mechanisms to tackle deforestation and to preserve biodiversity, while also announcing its desire to immediately restore the Fundo Amazônia (Amazon Fund). Brazil should also resume its leadership role in forging new cooperative arrangements.
It is fundamental that Brazilian international politics be centered on the idea that the cooperation and national sovereignty are not mutually exclusive, on the contrary: they strengthen each other. Therefore, a sustainable vision for the Amazon must go beyond fighting deforestation, with international cooperation with the Pan-Amazonian countries as its core. Enhancing the Amazon Treaty and Cooperation Organization’s (OTCA, acronym in Portuguese) political dimension and budgeting should underpin cooperation around the forest and its people. The Amazonian Parliament and the Amazon Regional Observatory represent additional platforms that should be leveraged to achieve a deeper and longer-lasting Pan-Amazonian cooperation. Moreover, there is an urgent need to hold a 4th Meeting of Amazonian Country Presidents, a non-permanent dialogue forum under the OTCA umbrella which brings together the heads of state of countries comprising the organization. The Amazon’s development, as well as that of other biomes, should be conceived with a focus on social inclusion, climate justice and on the protection of its environmental assets. Brazil’s international strategy may help to bring this about through climate cooperation and efforts for an increasingly efficient climate governance to foster climate justice, among other goals.
For Brazil, the climate agenda must be part of a fair, equitable and sovereign transition agenda. Nevertheless, a fair and sovereign transition in Brazil should reach far beyond the realm of energy: it should additionally make headway when it comes to devising a more sustainable agricultural agenda, thereby ensuring that a greater output corresponds to keeping the forest up, that parts of the agrobusiness’s production chain bring forward a higher aggregated value and that the Plano Agricultura de Baixo Carbono (Low-Carbon Agriculture Plan – ABC), as well as family farming and agricultural ecology-related projects receive more financing. It should endeavor to advance the food sovereignty agenda so that production, access to, and consumption of food are all embedded with sustainability and dignity and in which, additionally, biodiversity and bio-inputs have their value recognized and are enmeshed, as opposed to an excessive use of agrochemicals. The transition should additionally strive to make headway upon drafting a new and more sustainable mining project that shuns predatory extraction activities and under which socio-environmental, scale , and decentralization factors should be considered upon devising policies. Finally, it should endeavor to make progress in the field of green industrialization and responsible digitalization as necessary elements to help recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Regarding the Conference of the Parties (COPs), Brazil must adopt a more proactive stance, should not only focus on the Paris Agreement but should additionally bring forth other commitments taken on since then, such as the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use and the Global Methane Pledge. Even though mitigation is still an important matter to be addressed, international climate governance spaces need to be spaces for clear and proactive stances for the global adaptation, loss and damages, and climate finance agendas, thereby mainstreaming the concept of climate justice. Climate finance remains scarce, and not only for adaptation purposes, but also for loss and damage. Brazil should endeavor to further mechanisms like the L&D Finance Facility (LDFF), which was proposed by the G77 along with China. Should it successfully put the concept of “climate justice” at the center of its international strategy, Brazil will then be able to influence, from a Global South standpoint, an agenda that is usually defined by Northern nations. The climate agenda offers new possibilities for a common vision to be adopted by Global South countries and societies, and Brazil can play a leading role in these efforts by mobilizing other developing nations that are strongly focused on the subject of climate governance around the need to launch the second edition of the South Commission. This reasoning should not apply only to climate change conferences. Compared to climate COPs, global convention spaces for discussing biodiversity and desertification garner, comparatively speaking, little attention and scarce funding. Taking advantage of coordination with others in the South, Brazil can mobilize support for both agreements. Under the Convention on Biological Diversity, Brazil must advocate a strong post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. It must also defend ways to mitigate the advance of arid lands and press for the expansion of climate finance for this purpose.
In Brazil’s international climate policy, Latin America and the Caribbean must be a priority region. Currently, regional integration bodies do not have an up-to-date institutional structure to advance the climate agenda. For this reason, in the process of revitalizing regional integration bodies, it is necessary to restructure the institutional organization charts, giving priority to the climate and inclusive, solidary and sustainable development. Brazil’s regional strategy should be based on the Mercosur-Unasur-OTCA tripod, with agendas split into different agreements. At Unasurs, an institution that Brazil must immediately return, the climate agenda should be approached transversally to other topics, such as public health, the fight against transnational organized crime, energy and infrastructure. In addition, a specific body for the agenda must be created. In Mercosur, the immediate priority must be the end of the flexibilization agenda. From there, it is necessary to strengthen the organization’s socio-environmental agenda and make feasible the inclusion of Bolivia in the bloc. In particular, the adaptation and governance-building agendas on lithium extraction should be priority issues. The Mercosur-EU Agreement should be extensively renegotiated to highlight elements of socio-environmental responsibility and revise aspects that reinforce the trend towards deindustrialization in Mercosur countries. The chapter on Trade and Sustainable Development needs to be strengthened to incorporate stronger commitments. n addition to regional deals that had already been sealed, efforts must be made to consolidate promising new spaces, notably giving impetus to the urgent ratification of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (the Escazu Agreement), which will help to foster transparency, inclusion and climate justice in Brazil and the region and bringing the environment and human rights agendas together to build a regional environmental democracy.
South-South and triangular cooperation should be key instruments for Brazil’s new international climate policy. Africa should reclaim its place as a key player in Brazil’s foreign policy. Brazil should not restrict its efforts to rebuilding South-South cooperation and resuming commercial and economic ties but should additionally endeavor to include them in a more comprehensive political process that seeks to align Brazil’s political and commercial interests with those of African countries. For this to happen, though, Brazil’s resumption of its African policies must have the climate and environmental agendas as its cornerstones. To successfully bolster this cooperation’s climate-related elements, Brazil can enhance exchanges on food sovereignty-related matters, in which Embrapa already plays a key technical cooperation role, as well as on the field of energy sovereignty, while always endeavoring to address concerns of generating income and dignified jobs, in addition to devising a fair and sovereign transition In this process, the New BRICS Bank (NDB) should play a key role. Expanding trade agreements should also be a priority, whether bilaterally or via agreements by blocks and regional organizations. Ensuring that Brazilian exports are highly competitive is necessarily linked to enhancing the sustainability of its agriculture, thereby establishing dependable and widely accepted certification systems, in addition to bringing about innovations in effective due diligence methods attuned to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Another climate-related issue that requires more attention and can also be forwarded through multilateral channels is climate finance. In times when setbacks resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and debt distress hamper the Global South’s possibility of spurring sustainable development and a fair transition regionally, Brazil – working in unison with other in development countries – should endeavor, additionally using the BRICS for this purpose, to undertake structural and substantial reforms in Bretton Woods Institutions and recommend innovative measures to leverage new funds, such as blended finance models, which merge funds originating from distinct sources aimed at enabling climate adaptation with a fair transition in developing nations. In this sense, it is essential that the BRICS agenda is updated in the face of the climate emergency, for example through exchanges around the respective decarbonization strategies – reflected, including, in their NDCs, and just transition.
Brazil is fully capable of restoring and enhancing its legacy. Past experiences have shown that Brazil is able to not only fight deforestation and foster decarbonization-aimed innovations but is additionally capable of recommending and garnering support in favor of new global initiatives. Brazilians are increasingly concerned about climate change, which directly or indirectly affects millions in Brazil. The organized civil society engaged in the field of climate has never been this tightly coordinated and diversified. Moreover, several movements that were historically linked to workers’ rights now comprise more thorough climate agendas both in the domestic realm and in international discussions. Movements that address climate justice and other climate-related issues in general have become more robust, with a growing number of indigenous, Quilombola and other traditional peoples’ leaders active on the climate agenda. Subnational governments are also claiming their stake as new leaders and with novel ways of working, be it individually through municipalities or states or, instead, through partnerships. Regarding governance, immediately after being sworn in, the new administration will have to put in place a plan aimed at recovering capabilities that the State lost and restoring proactive relationships with non-national actors that are critical for implementing a new inclusive, solidarity , and sustainable development vision. In addition to institutions that will need to be “rebuilt with improvements,” efforts will have to be made to introduce a governance framework that enables drafting and deployment of a climate agenda that reflects the two main realms addressed in this document: the domestic and international realms.