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Sao Paulo Adopts Comprehensive Climate Change Policy

Sao Paulo recently became one of the first cities in the developing world to implement a citywide plan to fight climate change.

The city council unanimously approved law 14.933, which ambitiously aims to reduce Sao Paulo’s citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 30% of 2005 levels by 2012 through several measures comprehensively focused on transportation, renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste management, construction and land use.

The municipal government is currently defining further measures that will specify the details of the follow strategies laid out by the law:

Climate change mitigation

  • Transportation:

    • Reduce fossil fuel used in public transit by 10% per year, with all city fleets running on renewable fuels by 2017
    • Improve traffic management and decrease car demand by increasing public transportation access and use
    • Create carpool lanes and bus corridors, start a ride sharing program, and improve infrastructure for urban bicycle use
    • Develop GHG emissions standards for all vehicles registered in the municipality
  • Energy

    • Promote the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies while incentivizing decentralized, renewable energy generation
    • Implement energy efficiency and renewable energy programs in the construction, industry and transportation sectors
    • Use higher energy efficiency and renewable energy standards in municipal lighting
    • Incentivize research on renewable energy, energy efficiency and efficient products and processes
  • Waste Management

    • Minimize waste and implement a city recycling program
    • Require all new large buildings, such as condominiums and shopping malls, to demonstrate waste recycling plans in order to obtain permits
    • Reduce emissions in city landfills through better waste treatment and methane capture projects
    • Deter the use of plastic bags
  • Construction

    • Develop new energy efficiency, sustainability and material quality regulations with which newly constructed or renovated buildings must comply to receive necessary permits
    • Develop new efficiency and greenspace guidelines for all new public use construction
    • Allow only legally harvested, certified wood to be used in municipal construction
  • Land Use

    • Improve city planning to increase urban density in better distributed commercial and job centers throughout the city, thus requiring less travel by residents
    • Recover preservation areas and create greenspaces throughout Sao Paulo, including a greenbelt
    • Increase the number of trees throughout the city
Climate Change Adaptation

The Sao Paulo municipal bill moves past mitigation, and on to adaptation to climate change, as it institutes public health, education and defense measures:

  • Institute a climate change research, monitoring and rapid detection system
  • Create a climate change disease control and public education program, focusing on malaria and dengue fever
  • Prepare the civil defense forces for emergency response and prevention


The bill requires Sao Paulo to complete a citywide GHG emissions inventory every five years---the first one having been reported in 2005---to track emissions reductions from the measures above. The municipal government will also create incentives for private sector companies to report GHG inventories.

WRI’s GHG Protocol program has been working in Brazil to promote emissions management by building technical and institutional capacity for GHG accounting and reporting within Brazilian businesses. This work, along with the database of emissions factors and GHG calculation tool developed by the program specifically for Brazil, will certainly assist companies and the city to accurately report emissions.

Finally, the bill directs financial resources towards its enactment through a variety of means: by allocating Special Environment and Sustainable Development Fund finances; by vesting authorities with the ability to establish incentives and fees; and by establishing a mechanism that provides payment for environmental services to property owners who recover, maintain and preserve parts of a planned Private Natural Heritage Reserve in Sao Paulo.

The Center for Sustainability Studies at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, one of WRI’s major Brazilian partners, played a key role in drafting the legislation. The next step in the policy’s implementation is the creation of a Municipal Climate Change Committee in Sao Paulo, made up of members of municipal and state government, civil society and academic institutions. The committee will begin an integrated rulemaking process, which will provide opportunities for public comment and participation.

A Model of Urban Climate Action

Several challenges remain. It may be difficult to gain support from some of the numerous sectors that the law will affect, and it is yet to be decided how much of the citywide 30% emissions reductions each sector will have to account for. Political will is also necessary, as Sao Paulo’s politicians now need to make tough decisions regarding the allocation of resources and funding towards the law´s implementation. Finally, passing such a law may prove easy compared to actually implementing and enforcing it. Only time will tell how Sao Paulo will deal with such challenges, but by simply passing such a law it has taken a significant step in managing its emissions.

As the first city in rapidly-developing Brazil to pass such legislation, Sao Paulo has become a pioneer in urban climate change action. Additionally, because the city is the fourth largest in the world, such action will not only produce vast emissions reductions, but important lessons for other metropolitan areas, allowing Sao Paulo to serve as a model for other cities worldwide, in developing and developed countries alike.

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