Brazil and Leadership Needed at Rio+20

Posted on 15 June 2012 by admin

By Marcelo Furtado *

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 15 (TerraViva) – The rise of Brazil and other emerging economies is one of the major changes since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. With power comes responsibility. Rather than policy paralysis and yet more talk, there are several pressing economic, social and environmental challenges that demand important decisions be made this month as the world meets in Rio.

Credit: Claudius

For too long now, government and business leaders have dealt with economic problems in an old fashioned way, such as financing “business as usual“ sectors – policies that have only lead to further social and environmental unrest.

But there has been a global shift in power since governments met for the Rio Earth Summit 20 years ago.

Countries such as Brazil, China, India, and South Africa (the BASIC countries) have gained in economic and political power in the past 20 years – a development offering hope for global policy change.

Though poverty still exists, the BASIC countries are in many ways doing better than their ‘highly industrialised’ counterparts: there is high unemployment in Madrid and full employment in São Paulo. A recession grips Britain, while China continues to grow.

The BASIC countries are now requesting more political clout where global power is discussed – and they are right to do so.

Among these new economic powerhouses, Brazil holds a special place. Perhaps no other country in the world has the means – financial stability, a mature democracy and the right environmental assets – to implement a path of sustainability and prosperity.

In this new world order though, countries like Brazil cannot just demand action from the rest of the world. It must also answer the question of what the world can expect from Brazil. With power comes responsibilty.

Crucially, Brazil exemplifies the dilemma we are all facing: economic development versus sustainability.

In 2012, it became the world’s sixth largest economy and for much of the past decade has been rightly praised as a global leader in sustainable development for simultaneously reducing deforestation and further bridging the gap between the rich and poor.

These achievements, however, are under threat. In May, President Dilma Rousseff failed to fully veto a new Forest Code law which offers amnesty to forest criminals and reopens the Amazon for destruction.

Nearly 80% of Brazilians opposed the harmful Forest Code changes and citizens from Brazil and around the world called on Rousseff to entirely veto the law and commit to achieve Zero Deforestation in the Amazon by 2015. She did neither.

This was not the leadership that Brazil should be showing. During Rio, Greenpeace will be calling on the people of Brazil to make their call for Zero Deforestation so loud that Rousseff must agree.

Another area where it still can show leadership is in the decisions Brazil makes regarding the country’s oil reserves in the next decade.

If Brazil goes ahead with its planned pre-salt oil development, it will be among the five largest oil producers in the world by 2020, with oil-related emissions at the same level as those coming from deforestation today.

Currently, Brazil’s energy mix – though far from perfect, given its reliance on large hydro and nuclear power – is one of the least carbon intensive in the world.

So if the country was to invest the money that currently goes into deforestation and oil exploration into zero deforestation and a renewable energy revolution, it could deliver clean energy for all, a thriving Amazon rainforest and decent green jobs.

This would be true leadership – leadership the world needs to see.

As a Brazilian, I expect my country to live up to its global responsibility at Rio+20. As host of the summit, Brazil should not hide behind the difficulty of reaching global consensus, but take the lead in showing the world that a just, clean and green economy is possible.

The world we want is possible, and Brazil can show the leadership we need to make it happen.

* Executive Director of Greenpeace Brazil. (END/2012)


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