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WRI and USP report show that it is possible to produce more energy with lower emissions

Investing in the reduction of emissions in the transport sector through further integration of railways and waterways, improvements of public transport, ending subsidies for fossil fuels, providing more investments for bio-fuels; encouraging efficiency and energy savings in major industry and prioritising modern sources of renewable energies (wind and solar). These are the main recommendations outlined in the report entitled Bridging the Gap Between Energy and Climate Policies in Brazil, released 21st September by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in collaboration with the Energy and Environmental Institute of the University of Sao Paulo (IEE/USP).

If Brazil does not start reducing its emissions in the energy sector, energy will soon be the main national source of gases that contribute to climate change – the so-called greenhouse gases (GHG). During the last decade, the country increased its dependency on fossil fuels and reduced the share of renewable energies within the country’s total energy mix; “Despite its growth in absolute terms, the percentage of renewable energies within the Brazilian energy mix fell by 6% in the last six years,” said Viviane Romeiro, one of the authors of the report and the Climate Project Coordinator at WRI Brasil. This means that emissions from non-renewable energies are growing more compared to those from renewable energies.

The report was published days before the announcement of the official proposal the government will take to the COP 21 – the Climate Conference that will discuss a new climate agreement post-2020. The report also proposes a radical change in planned investments in energy, as well as asserting that the Brazilian position at the COP should involve a commitment to considerable reduction of energy emissions in the following decades.

According to Rachel Biderman, Executive Director at WRI Brasil, if President Dilma Rousseff does not offer a consistent proposal at the negotiations in Paris in December, Brazil’s position will appear weak: “tackling climate change, which is currently the world’s largest problem, is greatly dependent on how we produce energy. Brazil can certainly produce energy with low emissions and the report demonstrates this”.

President Rousseff announced the Brazilian proposal (known as the INDC in the jargon of climate negotiations) during her annual speech at the opening of the United Nations Assembly, on Sunday 29th September in New York.

The study’s recommendations are based on results from the mapping and analysis of official plans and estimates and studies conducted by research institutes and respected institutions such as the World Bank, the International Energy Agency and Greenpeace. “We analysed existing scenarios and the studies reflect a convergence: there is no way to reduce emissions without decarbonising the energy mix”, according to Oswaldo Lucon, professor at IEE/USP and one of the authors of the study. The proposed reductions, even in different scenarios, suggest estimates of a 40% decrease in energy emissions by 2030.

Energy and climate policies are not aligned in Brazil. The energy plan takes precedence over the climate plan and is reviewed every year; meanwhile, the National Policy for Climate Change “has been the same since 2009”, according to Lucon.

“We need energy policies that tackle the issue of renewable energies in a more strategic manner”, says Carlos Rittl, Executive Secretary of the Climate Observatory. “The 10-Year National Energy Plans (PDEs) do not establish the goals that could be encouraged through fiscal tools. Changes happen due to cyclical adjustments.” He uses the example of the revision of the projection of solar energy production, from the PDE 2023 to the PDE 2024, in which the estimate for solar energy production rises from 3 to 4 Gigawatts (GW) to 7GW in a decade. “Did Brazil take a strategic decision to produce cleaner energy because it is a sunny country? No. It was based on the fact that the reservoirs of the hydroelectric dams are at low capacity, and the cost of operation of the thermoelectric stations was very high for the country and had a significant economic impact. We have no contingency plan for the country”, he laments.

The report’s recommendations:

  1. Improve fuel economy and invest in the transition to low carbon modes of transport. The transport sector is the main source of GHG emissions with regards to the use of energy. The use of bio fuels that do not cause negative land-use change, alongside mass transportation and non-motorised modes of transport, could quickly reduce the sector’s emissions. Until now, except for a small number of cities, Brazil has offered very few incentives to change to more efficient modes of transport, such as railways and BRT. This change would bring significant local benefits and improvements to quality of life.

  2. Offer incentives to increase efficiency in the industry, including the implementation of the planned Brazilian Market for Emission Reduction (MBRE) that would encourage efficiency by creating a carbon price. In addition, impose conditions of commitment to high standards of energy efficiency on environmental licenses, as well as accelerating plans for the transition to low-carbon fuels and the implementation of the Measure, Report and Verification System (MRV) for carbon emissions from major industry.

  3. Prioritise modern renewable sources, particularly solar and wind energy, whilst simultaneously dealing with the challenges offered by the large hydroelectric projects. Brazil could promote the development of solar and wind energy and its interconnection within the grid by committing to increasing their share in the energy mix by 30% by 2030. This commitment could be included in the national climate plan and presented by the country in the negotiations for a new climate agreement, at the COP 21 in Paris.

  4. Conciliate energy and climate policies, as well as planning processes between national and international policies. The climate and energy policies and the planning processes must be integrated in the most complete and coherent way. In the energy sector, this means recognising that if a planning process for carbon budget is adopted – based on the National Energy Plan and the 10-Year Energy Expansion Plan – Brazil cannot continue focusing on fossil fuels. In the context of climate policy, this includes establishing ambitious yet feasible goals for the reduction of GHG emissions, considering all the potential for beneficial rebate and cost effectiveness in the energy sector.

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