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09/28/2015
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Brazil’s road to Paris

On Sunday, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff formally announced her country’s GHG emission reduction pledge at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Looking back at some of her country’s achievements in the fight against climate change, Mrs. Rousseff said ambitious actions would still be undertaken.

And they are ambitious indeed! Brazil will reduce its greenhouses gas emissions of 37% by 2025 and 43% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, Mrs. Rousseff declared. In perspective, that’s even more ambitious than the EU’s pledge of 40% in 2030 compared to 1990 levels!

For a leading developing economy to make such a commitment sends two messages.

The first is that yes, developing countries also need to do their part. As Mrs. Rousseff put it in her speech, COP21 is an opportunity to shape a “common response to the global challenge”, with “common but differentiated responsibilities”.

The second is that world leaders are finally confident that economic growth does not necessarily have to go in pair with dirty energy consumption. Clean energy sources are no longer a dream, or the luxury of rich countries. It’s now a fact: technology is ready; all we need is to use it and encourage its deployment wherever possible.

By 2030, said Mrs. Rousseff, Brazil will get 66% of its electricity from hydropower and 23% from other renewables, such as bioelectricity. It will also raise the share of renewables in its total energy mix to 45% (the role of renewables in Brazil have declined in percentage over the past years), with a 16% share for first and second-generation ethanol. Strong government objectives and steering will give the right signal for investors too, who will eventually make it happen and revamp the sugarcane sector.

It’s true the detailed breakdown of these numbers – needed to know how we’ll convert the targets into meaningful reality – remain to be known. This is something which will have to be discussed as a second step, by establishing a permanent dialogue between the government and stakeholders such as the Brazilian Coalition for Climate, Forest and Agriculture for instance.

But in the meantime, let’s celebrate Brazil’s ambitious pledge to the global effort against climate change, and the recognition that ethanol will be called to play a key role in it.

Géraldine Kutas