Fundação Renova


Published in: 03/24/2017


Starting today, we will publish a series of six posts of the article “Low carbon dioxide emission in land use: interdependence is the name of the game”, written by the CEO of the Renova Foundation, Roberto S. Waack. He stresses that, if properly conducted, Brazil may have a unique and extremely favorable competitive position in the production of commodities related to land use. Have a look at the first part of this discussion.


You can produce and preserve, leaving behind the false dilemma of produce or preserve. It will be very hard for other countries to compete with Brazil in this field. The signal that the planet will move towards a low carbon dioxide 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.

November 2014. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its 40th session in Copenhagen, presented the elements for another summarizing report, published in early 2015. It explained that the planet is warming up due to carbon emissions and that there is a strong correlation between natural and anthropogenic reasons. It presented evolution scenarios of trends, risks, uncertainties, impacts, alternatives to adaptation, mitigation, sustainable development, vulnerable regions and ecosystems, living with extreme events, metrics, modeling, alternatives for carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere and sub-national, national, bilateral and multinational responsibilities, policies, innovation, investment, trade-offs and synergies. Furthermore, it addressed the effects on cryosphere, atmosphere, oceans, land, freshwater, forests, rural areas and cities.

The so-called biogeochemistry policy laid the foundations for the COP-21, the Climate Conference later held in Paris in December 2015. December 18, 2014. A group of people representing nonprofit organizations, businesses, trade associations and, above all, themselves, meet in a hotel in Sao Paulo. The Brazil Climate, Forestry and Agriculture Coalition is founded.

Cane plantation in Barra Longa (MG).

Cane plantation in Barra Longa (MG). | Photo: Leo Drumond / NITRO

Some (a few) numbers

About 50 billion tons of equivalent CO2 (CO2e) are emitted on the planet. According to the IPCC, two economic sectors are mainly responsible for the emissions of these greenhouse gases (GHG): the production of electricity and heating (29%) and the change in land use (24%).

This latter group, defined by the acronym AFOLU, includes agriculture, forestry and other factors affecting land use. Followed by, in descending order, industry (21%), transport (14%) and other sectors such as construction and infrastructure.

A closer look reveals a very serious picture of emissions due to the production and distribution of food in general. This result become clear when emissions from the industrialization of food and fiber are added to the AFOLU group, as well as the logistics associated with it.

According to the Greenhouse Gas Emission Estimation System (SEEG), in 2014 about 2/3 of the carbon dioxide emission in Brazil (1.5 billion tons of CO2e) were associated with farming or land-use change. The country is one of the world champions in emission reductions: in 2004, it emitted almost double the amount of 2014. It’s recognized around the world for its significant reduction in deforestation, which at its peak in 2004 emitted 2 billion tons of CO2e, a very significant volume. However, despite the undeniable success of the monitoring and control of deforestation, Brazil continues with another much less commendable title: the world champion of forest destruction. This activity still represents 1/3 of national emissions.


“I belong to a lost generation and am comfortable only in the company of others who are lost and lonely”. Umberto Eco

The world is increasingly complex, turbulent and globalized, socially, economically and environmentally. The effects of human actions are spreading across the planet in real time. “The way we work in Sweden influences the rainfall pattern for a small producer in Southern Africa; and how a fisherman in Thailand operates in mangroves affects the weather pattern in England”, says Johan Rockstrom of the Stockholm University.
Land use has a unique characteristic in the universe of emissions of greenhouse gases. Its mitigation potential comes from two alternatives: the reduction of emissions resulting from land management and production of agricultural and forestry commodities, simultaneously to carbon dioxide removal alternatives arising from the plant metabolism.

Land use is the main source of food for the human population, it provides fibers for various uses and energy through different alternatives. It provides for a large part of the world’s population. At the same time, it provides multiple ecosystem services, in addition to the earlier mentioned effect on air quality, preservation of water sources and biodiversity. The unique characteristic of land use exposes it, almost literally, to an unusual pitched battle.

On one hand, the occupation for producing food and other commodities, which has historically been associated with the emission of greenhouse gases. On the other hand, the provision of environmental services, which relate to the removal of these gases. Not surprisingly, the main initiatives of multi-stakeholder governance on the planet were incubated in this clash and thrive on it. Certification systems such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and roundtables for soy and palm flourished in this environment.

In Brazil, the extensive discussion on the Forest Code comes from the same matrix. The agents operating in agribusiness, forests, nature conservation and especially in social land use have coexisted for a long time with common themes – all in a way, with their own independent agendas. Decades of living together, lost and alone, in isolated bars. But behold, the fragmentation, the disappointment and the hangover of the Forest Code clash, has led to the prospect of a new institutional order resulting from the evidence of climate change, reacting to political and socio-economic relevant signals. They are:

► accurate knowledge on how the land will be used is a very clear global trend;
► society accompanies this use with increasingly sophisticated instruments, such as satellites and geo-monitoring systems;
► transparency is here to stay; society, in organized form or not, has an increasingly important role in granting of licenses to operate;
► the use of natural resources, especially land and water, should be greatly optimized;
► it is inexorable to integrate the use of these resources, crossing the line of one’s own property for a more integrated approach to the surroundings;
► what is wasted and underused should be restored in some way; the purpose of these restorations can be very diverse;
► the production of goods and services is expected to generate fewer externalities;
► society will find ways to remunerate positive externalities, favoring less impacting ways of production.

Transparency, rationality and more efficient use of natural resources, restoration of natural capital, recognition and compensation for environmental services, social and economic punishment for the production of negative externalities are some of the main contour elements of land use. The concept of expanded landscape management is consolidated gradually. It is evident that in this area, interdependence is the name of the game. Individuals are starting to meet at the same bar. Paris (COP-21) did not give the signal. Paris read the signal given by the critical mass of growing individuals. Maybe not so lost and alone anymore because they meet at the same bar, aware of the foundation of a new way of dealing with land use, stimulated by the world of climate change, but not limited to it.


Do not miss the second part of this article, next week (March 29), in which will be addressed the indirect negative effects or positive output of goods or services, transferred to individuals and/or entities not involved in the production process – the so-called externalities of the production process.

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