Brazil must get ready for taking up the commitment to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases that will probably be included in future international agreements. Until 2012, the rules established by the Kyoto Protocol are valid, which, in the distribution of responsibilities amongst the 154 signatory countries, attributed to the 30 most developed countries the task of bringing down by 5% their emissions in relation to the total recorded in 1990. But at the 11th Conference of the Parties (COP 11), held in Montreal, in Canada, at the end of November, the first understandings started for the formulation of rules for the period subsequent to 2012, and Brazil – the fifth largest culprit for worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases, after only the United States, Russia, China and Japan – should be called to give a more notable contribution.
This scenario was the backcloth for the debates at the Regional Conference on Global Changes II: South America, held in São Paulo between November 6 and 10. “Brazil has to negotiate the agreements for 2012, showing proposals for reducing the emission of carbon dioxide”, says Carlos Alfredo Joly, from the Biosciences Institute of the State University of Campinas (Unicamp). The expectation is that the country will repeat the work it had in the negotiations that preceded the signature of the Kyoto Protocol, when it contributed towards the formulation of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which authorized the developed countries to acquire credits generated by companies from emerging nations, creating a market estimated at – 34 billion up until 2010, of which Brazil is the second largest beneficiary, after only India. In the understandings for the post-Kyoto period, though, the drawing up of any proposal will depend on more detailed studies about the impact of global warming on the various regions of Brazil making it possible to formulate recommendations of environmental policies, to qualify specialists for drawing up scenarios of climatic changes and to provide input for future negotiations, according to an assessment by participants at the encounter. “We do not yet have refined climatic models for making analyses, nor a basis for comparing the changes in the ecosystem”, Joly warns. The initial results of the climatic models drawn up by the Weather Forecast and Climatic Studies Centers (CPTEC), of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), will only be concluded next year.
Little is known of the impact of the changes of climate on the health of the population and on the dissemination of malaria, dengue and meningitis, diseases transmitted by insects. “The climate has an effect on the biology of the vectors and pathogens”, observes Ulisses Confalonieri, a researcher from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz). “In terms of human health, extreme climatic events must be related to rain or to drought.” In this case, it would be necessary to adopt preventive measures to reduce the vulnerability of the communities in the area of risk. One of the recommendations of Conference II, incidentally, is for the mitigating actions of the consequences of the climatic changes to cover the least favored population, which would be affected on a larger scale.
Alteration to the cycle of rains may also have economic implications and put at risk other countries of South America. In the province of Santa Fé, in Argentina, for example, the occurrence of rainfalls with over 100 millimeters was not frequent until the 1960’s. Now they are recorded up to 30 times a year. “Alterations in the flows of the rivers of these regions have a direct influence on the availability of water for generating electricity”, explains Vicente Barros, from the University of Argentina, who took part in the meeting.
The negotiations for the targets for reducing emissions from 2012 onwards, though, will be even more complicated than those of the period that preceded the Kyoto Protocol, the specialists in international relations foresee. “Questions of the environment and poverty, that had been imposing themselves on the global agenda, have momentarily lost the space achieved, by virtue of the fight against terrorism”, analyzes Jacques Marcovitch, from the School of Economics and Administration and a former rector of the University of São Paulo (USP). Furthermore, Japan and the countries of the European Union – which, along with the United States, are responsible for 65% of the accumulated global emissions – have maintained their energy consumption habits, including the use of coal, in the light of the rise in the price of oil. “If the current pace is maintained, these countries will not comply with the targets established by Kyoto”, he foresees.
In this round for understanding that is starting now, the various protagonists – scientists, governments and companies – will have to maintain their commitment to the global objectives of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and to the development of clean and efficient technologies, Marcovitch foresees. But it is already possible to anticipate some discords between the parties. “The dissonant notes are to be seen in the sharing of responsibilities, in the way of reaching the objectives aspired to, in the mechanisms making viable a reduction in emissions, and in the mobility of clean technologies.”
The scientific community asks, by means of a joint manifesto from the national academies of sciences issued this year, for an international study to be carried out to define targets for the concentration of greenhouse gases, the development of efficient technologies for using clean energy, and the identification of measures – with regard to a favorable cost-benefit ratio – that can immediately be adopted for a substantial reduction in the emissions that cause climatic changes.
On the other side are the global companies that have taken up the commitments established by Kyoto and joined the carbon credit market, and are now seeking ways and means of reducing the costs of the projects. In a declaration that preceded the last G-8 summit, in Gleneagles, in Scotland, they appealed for the establishment of a global scheme for emissions to remain in force until 2030 and to be extended to 2050, for a definition of limits for emissions of gases and other market mechanisms for trading the emission certificates, for the development of clean technologies, and for the simplification of the CDM procedures, amongst others. “It is expensive to incorporate a price for reduction into the costs of energy. When they are passed on to the consumers, they demand benefits”, says Marco Antonio Fujihara, a director of PricewaterhouseCoopers Brazil. Some energy companies of the European Union, he tells, are now proposing to their governments to swap investments in reducing emission for a reduction in fees and taxes.
Who pays the bill?
“The international negotiations are centered on the sharing of the onus”, analyzes Luiz Gylvan Meira, from USP’s Advanced Studies Institute. There is a tendency to maximize gains that takes into account the costs of emissions, damages from changes, efforts to adapt, amongst others, and an enormous difficulty in splitting up these costs over time – after all, the estimate is that it will take 40 years to reduce the impacts of the current emissions. In this imbroglio, in Meira’s analysis, three crucial aspects need to be agreed upon: “How to rebate to today the costs distributed over time? What is the factor of aversion to risk? What are the marginal costs of reducing emissions?” For Marcovitch, it is now up to the Brazilian protagonists to influence the configuration of the legal foundations of the decisions that have to result from the COP 11.