Over the last couple of years, Brazil has played a leading role in negotiating global sustainability commitments such as the Paris Agreement, Aichi Biodiversity Targets, Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda. In 2017, it will be necessary to turn promises into concrete actions.

As one of the world’s largest emitters and a growing economy, Brazil has the potential to act as a global leader for nations transitioning to low-carbon economies. Such leadership must be viewed beyond geopolitical status; it is a strategy that will reward countries with social, economic and environmental gains.

Here are a few goals Brazil can and should pursue in 2017 to make progress:

Design Sustainable Cities for People

Newly elected mayors took office in January in more than 5,500 Brazilian cities, home to more than 200 million people. These new city administrations can provide a fresh start at the local level for a four-year cycle of city transformation.

The Brazilian federal government recently reshaped its financing strategy to focus on public-private partnerships (PPPs). Brazil’s new mayors will face the challenge of advancing PPPs instead of counting on the federal budget for implementing new infrastructure. Brazilian cities need to improve their capacity to develop bankable, sustainable projects in order to start shifting to low-carbon development models.

A key focus should be on transportation. In 2016, the way residents commute started an unprecedented change with the rise of on-demand transportation services, like Uber and Cabify, while major carmakers merged with innovative technology companies worldwide. But shifting to a low-carbon development model will require fewer cars and more public transport, walking and cycling—shifts encouraged by Brazil’s National Urban Mobility Policy. Cities have an opportunity to move these forms of transit forward by prioritizing them in their metropolitan development plans and mobility plans, which are due to the national government by 2018 and 2019, respectively. WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities ​​offers the methodology Seven Steps - How to build an Urban Mobility Plan in order to assist cities in this process.

Put Paris Commitments into Practice

Keeping global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) should be seen as a high-priority challenge, requiring continuous and ambitious action. Brazil’s strategy for how it will achieve its target to reduce emissions 37 percent by 2025 and 45 percent by 2030 is open for public consultation until March. This is an important step to empower civil society engagement with the Brazilian government and to promote greater transparency and monitoring.

In order to strengthen Brazil’s leadership position in international climate negotiations, the government must develop practical measures to demonstrate how its commitments will become reality. Improving climate governance by instituting a method for monitoring the implementation of the national climate policy as a whole is a key step.

WRI Brasil intends to create a platform for monitoring and transparency, which will help citizens, research groups and other entities hold the government accountable.

Restore Degraded Forest Landscapes

In 2015, 46 percent of Brazil’s emissions came from deforestation and land use change. So restoring degraded landscapes is a key piece of solving some of the country’s sustainability challenges.

Last year, Brazil joined the global Bonn Challenge to restore degraded landscapes and the regional Initiative 20x20, a movement to restore 20 million hectares of degraded landscapes in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2020.  The announcement underpins the Brazilian pledges to both the Paris Agreement and Aichi Biodiversity Targets, with the country committing to restore native vegetation, promote large-scale reforestation, recover degraded areas, and adopt low-carbon agricultural practices on 22 million hectares by 2030.

Brazil can start following through on these commitments by developing a system to monitor restoration actions across the country. Government agencies, agribusiness entrepreneurs and other decision-makers can use WRI’s Restoration Opportunity Assessment Methodology (ROAM), developed in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, to identify areas ripe for low-cost, high-impact restoration activities.

A Time for Change

Brazil has always been a land of economic opportunities and abundant natural resources. Now, it must convert itself into an equitable and prosperous country while preserving its rich biodiversity. Last year was a year of big commitments; we look forward to 2017 becoming a year of big action.