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  • Blog post

    Rio+20 in the Rear View: A Missed Opportunity for Climate Change Action

    WRI's experts will continue to provide commentary and analysis of the results of the Rio+20 conference through our series, "Rio+20 in the Rear View." For more posts in this series, see here, here, and here.

    Going into Rio+20, we knew that climate change wasn’t going to be a major focus on the formal agenda – yet its presence was amply felt. Simply put, you cannot create a more sustainable future without addressing the climate challenge.

    From forests to energy, oceans to the green economy, our changing climate is already having an undeniable impact—and the recent signs are not good. Just taking the United States as an example, so far this year we’ve seen record-breaking spring temperatures, with another major heat wave sweeping through. In Colorado, dry, hot conditions are leading to massive wildfires. In the Northeast, the U.S. Geological Survey is reporting that sea levels are rising even faster than previously expected. These conditions come as global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise – and yet for the most part, governments are not putting policies in place at the scale needed to address this problem.

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  • Blog post

    Rio+20 in the Rear View: Companies Call for Better Water Governance

    WRI's experts will continue to provide commentary and analysis of the results of the Rio+20 conference through our series, "Rio+20 in the Rear View." For more posts in this series, see here and here.

    Since the close of the Rio +20 conference last week, participants, experts, and observers the world over have tried to determine what, if any, real outcomes were achieved. Amidst all of the controversy and frustration over commitments and lack of progress, something significant did happen at Rio: Forty-five major companies representing hundreds of billions of dollars in annual revenue called for “much greater action by Governments” to achieve global water security.

    These major companies endorse the U.N.’s Global Compact CEO Water Mandate, an initiative designed to assist companies in the development, implementation, and disclosure of water sustainability policies and practices. Their recent call at Rio+20 for better water governance is an important step forward for water protection—after all, it’s not every day that such a wide array of leading corporations asks governments to assert more control. It’s an indicator that water scarcity is creating widespread risks that are too complex for even the most powerful of companies to manage alone.

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  • Blog post

    Rio+20 in the Rear View: A Look at Rio de Janeiro’s New Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program

    WRI's experts will continue to provide commentary and analysis of the results of the Rio+20 conference through our series, "Rio+20 in the Rear View." For more posts in this series, see here and here.

    During the informal sessions of the U.N.’s Rio+20 conference on sustainable development last week, Rio de Janeiro city officials and the World Bank jointly launched a very timely project: the Rio Low-Carbon City Program. Under this initiative, the city will introduce low-carbon strategies like bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors, upgraded urban rail systems, bikeways, and an integrated solid waste management system in order to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

    The program came about due to the city’s landmark 2011 municipal climate change law, which requires Rio to avoid 20 percent of 2005 GHGs emissions by 2020. This cut will amount to a reduction of 2.27 million tons of carbon dioxide from the business-as-usual scenario.

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  • Blog post

    Rio+20 in the Rear View: What’s the Road Ahead for Sustainable Transportation?

    WRI's experts will continue to provide commentary and analysis of the results of the Rio+20 conference through our series, "Rio+20 in the Rear View." Check Insights this week and next for more post-Rio+20 coverage.

    As we look to make sense of the Rio+20 conference that concluded last week, we can confidently say that transportation drove its way to the top of the sustainable development agenda. It’s a far departure from the last global development conference 10 years ago in Johannesburg, when transportation was conspicuously absent from the agenda and the resulting Millennium Development Goals. After the Rio+20 conference last week, transportation is now poised to become a significant part of the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals, which are beginning to take shape as one of the conference’s major outcomes.

    With transportation intricately tied to so many of the global mega-trends today—climate change, traffic fatalities, city growth and congestion, poverty, and air pollution—it was exciting to see sustainable transport finally included in development discussions. Here are a few of Rio+20’s major transportation outcomes:

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  • Blog post

    Rio+20 Text Offers Hope for Improving Governance

    The main focus of the formal negotiations at Rio+20 is the outcome document, “The Future We Want.” The text, which was approved earlier this week and will likely be agreed upon by heads of state and U.N. officials, outlines a global framework for sustainable development and building a green economy. The text will have an impact on areas ranging from climate change to business to transportation, but the document’s biggest implications for governance is its references to Principle 10. By including this Principle and modest action, the outcome document offers glimmers of hope that citizens—including poor and marginalized communities across the globe—will no longer fall victim to environmentally degrading, exploitative development projects.

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  • Blog post

    Cities Take the Lead on Tackling Climate Change

    Climate change may not have been on the official Rio+20 agenda, but that didn’t stop mayors from megacities around the world from making major headway on the issue. At the Rio+20 conference on Tuesday, the network of C40 city leaders announced new data showcasing the fact that these cities' initiatives could cut 1.3 billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2030.

    At the decidedly urban event—perched in a colorful, high-tech auditorium miles from Rio+20’s official negotiations in the suburbs—Mayors Bloomberg (NYC), Paes (Rio de Janeiro), Park (Seoul), and Tau (Johannesburg)—as well as President Clinton (via video) and other leaders—made a compelling case for global action through cities. The mayors asserted that cities are proving to be the most effective government entities in addressing global climate change. In addition to announcing goals to reduce 1.3 billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2030, leaders cited already-taken actions that will cut 248 million tons of greenhouse gases by 2020. The cities’ achievements contrast with international negotiations (and some national governments), which have been unable to agree to binding CO2 reduction targets.

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  • Blog post

    Dispatches from Rio+20: Visiting with Mayor Bloomberg, Riding the Bus, and More

    One lesson from Rio+20 is you shouldn’t confuse what’s happening in the hallways and negotiating rooms with what’s taking place on the ground. A great example of this is the new bus-rapid-transit line that has just started running in Rio de Janeiro. The BRT has gotten a lot of attention this week– not least because New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s visit to Rio de Janeiro brought focus to the city’s transportation system.

    On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to join Mayor Bloomberg and Rio’s Mayor Paes, along with my EMBARQ colleagues to visit Rio’s operations center. Mayor Bloomberg was primarily here to promote the C40 Climate Leadership Group’s announcement of C40 cities' actions to reduce 1.3 billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2030. The Mayor also cited city-level actions already taken that will cut 248 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

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  • Blog post

    What's Happening at Rio+20: June 22nd

    It’s the final week of Rio+20, and WRI’s experts are on the ground for all the action. Each day, I’ll bring you highlights of what’s on the horizon. Check out the details below on the exciting things happening tomorrow. And be sure to visit the full list of WRI’s Rio+20 events.

    We are heading into the last day of the conference. I'd say we are coasting in, because it seems that there won't be much drama around the resolution. I don’t think many people are really satisfied with the formal outcome, which isn't nearly ambitious enough. But it was certainly a busy, stimulating week with lots of opportunities to meet people, have interesting conversations, and wrestle with the big issues. I would also say, once again, that's it has been enjoyable to be in Rio - though the sun has turned into rain. A metaphor? Perhaps.

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  • Blog post

    For the First Time, GHG Protocol to help Brazil Measure Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Agriculture

    This past Sunday, WRI’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol team conducted a session at the Rio+20 event, “The Green Economy: Driving Business Value and Competitiveness.” The session included great dialogue between business leaders, policy makers, and WRI experts, and featured one very significant declaration: The British Ambassador to Brazil, Alan Charlton, announced GHG Protocol’s groundbreaking new work with Brazil’s agriculture sector. For the first time, GHG Protocol will develop a guidance that allows Brazilian companies and individual farms to measure, report, and manage greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

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  • Blog post

    Final Days at Rio+20: Measuring Progress So Far

    Rio+20 has not quite concluded, but we’re rapidly approaching the end line. Somewhat unexpectedly, the Rio+20 outcome document was largely finalized yesterday afternoon. NGOs have weighed in on what this means, and most are rightfully frustrated. Almost across the board, the document is much too soft and vague to solve today’s sustainability challenges. Much of the text is merely a reaffirmation of previous agreements or worse, a regression from those agreements.

    That said, we’ve believed all along that the more groundbreaking action at Rio+20 would be outside of the formal process. Certainly, after attending many side events and informal meetings this week, I’ve come across numerous examples of civil society organizations, entrepreneurs, companies, and others who are moving forward with innovative approaches to address sustainability. Perhaps more importantly, outside of Rio, many national and local governments are genuinely pushing ahead on sustainability in exciting ways.

    The picture at Rio is much like the world today: complex, incremental and not rising to the challenges in front of us.

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Strengthening land use laws and practices that impact forests to reduce deforestation and forest degradation and increase communities’ rights to natural resources.

6 Lessons Brazilian Cities Learned from Greenhouse Gas Inventories

This piece provides insights from a recent Greenhouse Gas Protocol seminar in Brazil. The Seminar was part of WRI’s Sustainable Cities Initiative funded by the Caterpillar Foundation.

Last week in São Paulo, WRI, ICLEI, C40, USP-IEE, and EMBARQ Brazil jointly brought together more than 200 Brazilian city officials and experts to discuss how to use the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GPC) to measure and manage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cities. Representatives from Brazil’s federal and state governments, as well as city-level governments including São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, and Piracicaba, shared their experiences in conducting GHG inventories and implementing local climate actions.

Brazilian cities and municipalities vary in the status of their efforts to collect GHG data and conduct emissions inventories. The event focused on emissions management efforts so far. Below are six lessons highlighted by participants in the discussion:

1. Strong political commitment is crucial for success. Many cities in Brazil have made strong political commitments to address climate change. For example, Rio and Belo Horizonte have created municipal climate change laws with mandatory GHG reduction targets. Rio’s target is to reduce emissions by 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, while Belo Horizonte’s is 20 percent by 2030. In both cases, city-wide GHG inventories have been conducted to inform and track performance toward these targets.

2. The inventory is the first step in low-carbon development. Participants stressed the importance of the GHG inventory process (see figure below) as a planning tool to help cities assess their emissions, identify emission sources, set reduction targets, prioritize mitigation actions, and track performance. For instance, Belo Horizonte’s inventory found that the transportation sector is the city’s major source of GHG emissions (71 percent); this information will help the city identify reduction measures. Prof. Jose Goldemberg, former federal Minister and São Paulo State Secretary of Environment, stressed that GHG inventories help cities identify key emission sources and implement low-carbon technologies. Nelson Moreira Franco, Director for Climate Change Management and Sustainable Development for the City of Rio, stressed that the “GHG inventory is a powerful instrument to manage emissions and influence policy-making.”

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More Urbanites, More Cars: The Challenge of Urban Road Safety and Health

This post originally appeared on TheCityFix.com.

As more and more people move into cities, more cars are also hitting the streets. These vehicles not only spew greenhouse gas emissions, they can cause urban traffic fatalities. We already see 1.2 million traffic-related deaths per year worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, with increased urbanization and motorization, road fatalities are expected to become the fifth-leading cause of death by 2030.

What are some of the key drivers of urban traffic fatalities? What can be done to reduce fatalities through sustainable urban development and sustainable urban mobility? What are successful examples of projects to reduce road fatalities in cities?

At the invitation of The Brookings Institution and the FIA Foundation, Holger Dalkmann, Director of WRI’s EMBARQ Center for Sustainable Transport, and Claudia Adriazola-Steil, EMBARQ Director of the Health & Road Safety Program, highlighted last week in Washington, DC some key findings and actions to reduce urban traffic fatalities. Here are some highlights:

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A Closer Look at the Evolution of Brazil’s Overseas Investments

From 2001 to 2011, Brazil’s per capita GDP more than tripled. At the heart of this domestic economic boom is the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES).

BNDES is Brazil’s key financial institution for domestic long-term financing, and it’s one of the main financial engines behind Brazil’s take-off as a leading Latin American economy. Its lending and equity investments are becoming increasingly important internationally.

But what’s driving all of this growth? And what standards exist to ensure that Brazil’s overseas investments aren’t coming at the expense of the environment and human well-being? WRI seeks to address these questions and more in its new slide deck, “Emerging Actors in Development Finance: A closer look at Brazil’s Growth, Influence and the Role of BNDES.”

 

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Big Business and the Amazon: Protecting Nature’s Benefits

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com

The Amazon rainforest boasts incomparable biodiversity– home to one in 10 of all known species— and plays a vital role in regional water supply and global climate regulation. Yet, it is also a profitable working forest, benefitting both local businesses and international corporations.

Trying to reconcile the conservation and commercial roles of such biodiversity hotspots is no easy matter. But a group of multinational corporations— Anglo American, Danone, Grupo Maggi, PepsiCo, Natura, Vale, Votorantim, and Walmart— are attempting to do just that in Brazil.

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Rio+20 in the Rear View: Why We Need to Connect the Grassroots to the Grasstops

Sarah Martin and Gayatri Gadag also contributed to this blog post.

Rio+20 may have ended more than three weeks ago, but the environmental and development communities are still feeling the disappointment. One of the biggest shortcomings was the lack of collaboration between citizen groups (the “grassroots”) and the policy research organizations that influence policymakers (the “grasstops”).

As WRI’s Manish Bapna points out, “A gap and lack of coordination between grassroots and grasstops institutions was evident during the Rio+20 summit. Advancing sustainable development in a meaningful way hinges on bridging this gap.” In other words, creating political will and building the constituency necessary to support the policy changes being advocated for requires collaboration between different segments of civil society.

Expanding Clean Energy Access

Bridging the grassroots-grasstops divide is especially necessary when it comes to clean energy access, an issue that received much attention at Rio+20 as a result of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4A) initiative. SE4A is a global initiative that aims to mobilize action from all sectors of society to support universal access to modern energy services, improve energy efficiency, and increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. However, actually expanding clean energy access will require cooperation between think tanks, institutions, governments, and the citizens who are most in need of sustainable energy access.

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Rio+20: More Progress from Business Needed

This piece originally appeared in The Guardian.

Big business seemed to be everywhere at Rio+20, arguably more visible than the 100 or so heads of state and government, who arrived for the final few days.

Hundreds of business initiatives were announced through groups including Business Action for Sustainable Development and the UN Global Compact's Corporate Sustainability Forum. And the corporate leaders who flocked to Brazil made all the right noises. "We have to bring this world back to sanity and put the greater good ahead of self-interest," Unilever CEO Paul Polman told the Guardian.

But how much substance lies below the surface of these declarations?

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Rio+20 in the Rear View: A Missed Opportunity for Climate Change Action

WRI's experts will continue to provide commentary and analysis of the results of the Rio+20 conference through our series, "Rio+20 in the Rear View." For more posts in this series, see here, here, and here.

Going into Rio+20, we knew that climate change wasn’t going to be a major focus on the formal agenda – yet its presence was amply felt. Simply put, you cannot create a more sustainable future without addressing the climate challenge.

From forests to energy, oceans to the green economy, our changing climate is already having an undeniable impact—and the recent signs are not good. Just taking the United States as an example, so far this year we’ve seen record-breaking spring temperatures, with another major heat wave sweeping through. In Colorado, dry, hot conditions are leading to massive wildfires. In the Northeast, the U.S. Geological Survey is reporting that sea levels are rising even faster than previously expected. These conditions come as global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise – and yet for the most part, governments are not putting policies in place at the scale needed to address this problem.

Share

Rio+20 in the Rear View: Companies Call for Better Water Governance

WRI's experts will continue to provide commentary and analysis of the results of the Rio+20 conference through our series, "Rio+20 in the Rear View." For more posts in this series, see here and here.

Since the close of the Rio +20 conference last week, participants, experts, and observers the world over have tried to determine what, if any, real outcomes were achieved. Amidst all of the controversy and frustration over commitments and lack of progress, something significant did happen at Rio: Forty-five major companies representing hundreds of billions of dollars in annual revenue called for “much greater action by Governments” to achieve global water security.

These major companies endorse the U.N.’s Global Compact CEO Water Mandate, an initiative designed to assist companies in the development, implementation, and disclosure of water sustainability policies and practices. Their recent call at Rio+20 for better water governance is an important step forward for water protection—after all, it’s not every day that such a wide array of leading corporations asks governments to assert more control. It’s an indicator that water scarcity is creating widespread risks that are too complex for even the most powerful of companies to manage alone.

Share

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