Fundação Renova

Low carbon dioxide emission in land use: interdependence is the name of the game (PART 6)

Published in: 04/12/2017


The series on the article “Low carbon dioxide emission in land use: interdependence is the name of the game”, by Roberto S. Waack, CEO of Renova Foundation, comes to an end with an important discussion on low carbon agriculture. According to the author, the debate on this topic is extensive and includes the adoption of production technologies for integrated production systems (livestock-forest). Learn more about this topic.


The evolution of Brazilian agriculture is driven by territorial expansion and technology development, generating increased productivity, resulting in wide inclusion and leadership in international markets. Brazil has become a reference in the production of food, fibers and bioenergy. In addition to public-private technology, this trajectory was based on an apparatus of agricultural policies (minimum prices, agricultural credit and rural extension) that have promoted the improvement of technology itself and the conditions to expand production and productivity in Brazil.

Agricultural credit for investment has been a determining factor for the adoption of mechanization, adaptation to different ecosystems, more efficient use of supplies, minimum tillage, pest control and precision agriculture. With an increasing pressure on sustainability, objectives of agricultural policies are changing, becoming more transversal, expanding their scope to food safety, environmental protection and agricultural zoning.

Currently, the Brazilian agricultural sector is funded by three sources: the public system (Banco do Brasil, Caixa Econômica Federal, state and regional banks), private banks, input suppliers and traders, as well as the producers’ own resources. Thus, the evolution of agriculture for the incorporation of low carbon practices depends on a triad represented by public policies, credit and national and international market pressures.

The Brazilian Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) refers to the recovery of 30 million hectares of degraded pastures, of which half directly related to the Low Carbon Agriculture Plan (ABC) and the implementation of integrated agricultural-forestry production systems. Agribusiness accounts for about 1/4 of the national gross domestic product and nearly half of all exports. National emission targets mention it explicitly, which indicates how crucial the low-carbon economy and land use are for national development. It is a key sector for the country to achieve its overall goal of greenhouse gas reduction.

The adoption of technology for integrated production processes (livestock-forest) is critical to a low-carbon economy

The adoption of technology for integrated production processes (livestock-forest) is critical to a low-carbon economy. | Leo Drumond / NITRO

The main topics and industry trends have been the intensification of production, rationalization of land use and refusal to conquer new territories, notably forestry. The degradation of pasture areas contributes greatly to national emissions, along with the conversion of forests and the Cerrado areas. They are associated with the decomposition of organic matter and inefficient land use for weight gain of the animals. Recovery and maintenance of pasture productivity contribute to the increasing stocking rate of pastures and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.

The low-carbon agriculture depends on production technologies for integrated production systems (livestock-forest), increased pasture carrying capacity and search for a neutral emission balance. However, the debate on low-carbon agriculture is extensive. It is not restricted to a single model or specifically dedicated to a certain form of production. Also relevant is the volume of emissions from the use of fertilizers, especially nitrogenous.

Organizations such as the Center for Sustainability Studies of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, the Climate Policy Initiative, Imaflora and Rabobank have been devoted pioneers in the adoption of practices with reduced incidence of negative externalities in agribusiness. There is a strong correlation between productivity and sustainability programs, including costs and differential access to markets. Unlike the forestry sector, access to credit is crucial in this segment. Instruments such as the Green Protocol, the ABC Program, the Febraban guidelines, the Ecuador Principles and the Banking Environment Initiative Principles can be strong incentive instruments.

One of the main innovative frontiers is the development of agroforestry systems, or consortia of agricultural crops with tree species. They are used to combine forest restoration together with the recovery of soils and the production of food, wood and energy.

A broad set of technologies minimizes the risk of degradation, seeking to optimize productivity with minimal use of agrochemicals and externalities control, focusing on greater harmonization of ecological functions, enabling the establishment of a better interrelationship between soil, fauna, flora and climate.


In a synthetic form, perhaps the most powerful concept linked to land use is landscape management, covering housing, production and conservation in an integrated and coordinated manner. This concept is based on several critical pillars:

  1. Transparency in land use and traceability of products derived therefrom;
  2. Recognition of the value (not only economic) of natural capital;
  3. Rational and efficient use of natural resources;
  4. Restoration of degraded and underused natural capital;
  5. Recognition of the production of positive externalities and remuneration for environmental services;
  6. Social and economic punishment for the production of negative externalities;
  7. Social integration, connecting rural areas and towns;
  8. Integration of logistics and responsible consumption of goods originating from land use;
  9. Attention to innovation in products, services and management models related to low-carbon emission;
  10. Integrated medium and long-term planning

The articulation of the productive sector linked to land use through civil society gradually learns to deal with the complexity of multi-stakeholder governance. The challenge of the complexity is to be responded with clear actions to promote confidence and joint innovative progress through cooperation.

Initiatives such as the Brazil Climate, Forests and Agriculture Coalition and its more than 130 members indicate that the consolidation of the low-carbon economy associated with land use requires a number of elements:

► effective and transparent implementation of the Forest Code, with the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR) as its central pillar, allowing society to create its own instruments to monitor the quality of mapping and to propose integrated landscape management systems;

► establishment of plans for land-use regularization planning, equating conflicts arising from the overlap of ownership and land use rights;

► increasing participation of low-carbon agriculture in the food production scenario in Brazil, with as its central pillar: credit policies, innovation and the wide dissemination of sustainable practices, such as the intensification of production, the recovery of degraded areas and pastures, the integration of crop-livestock-forest, the spread of agroforestry systems, no-till farming and other initiatives of this kind;

► effective forest restoration, integrated with the production of food, energy and fibers, with strong provision of environmental services related to climate, water regime, biodiversity and soil quality. Here, the technological development of silviculture of native tree species is vital;

► vigorous resumption of the national agenda of bioenergy with integration of ethanol products like biodiesel and fuels originating from forests;

► consolidation of the tropical rain forest economy, historically relegated to informality, illegality and impunity, by encouraging sustainable forest management in tropical rain forests and efficient mechanisms for the traceability of timber and non-timber forest products;

► commitment to totally eliminate deforestation and forest degradation from food, fiber or energy supply chains;

► incorporation of public information practice of greenhouse gas emission inventories, as well as plans to mitigate these emissions;

► effective remuneration for environmental services, recognizing the carbon value and transaction mechanisms associated with it;

► inclusion and leadership of Brazil in international cooperation related to land use and low-carbon economy; adoption of incentive and priority recognition of low-carbon practices in international commodities trade.

The interdependence of sectors involved in land use may lead to a change from or to and: it is possible to produce and conserve, leaving behind the false paradigm of produce or preserve. It will be very hard for other countries to compete with Brazil in this field. The signal that the planet is moving towards a low-carbon economy is given. If properly conducted, Brazil may have a unique competitive position and extremely favorable in the production of commodities related to land use, managing to simultaneously enhance and preserve its immense natural capital.

Over the past weeks, we have presented the article “Low carbon dioxide emission in land use: interdependence is the name of the game”, by Roberto S. Waack, CEO of the Renova Foundation. According to him, it is possible to produce and at the same time preserve, made possible by investing in technological innovation and management.

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