Energy Sector highlights
Brazilian Proposal for Kyoto
Saturday, 14 February 1998.
Brazilian Proposal for Kyoto
Luiz Gylvan Meira Filho
Version to English
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change stands out among the international instruments that aim at meeting the challenges of global environmental problems. The climate change to which the Convention refers is that caused by the global warming resulting from the enhancement of the greenhouse effect. The cause of the problem are the human-induced greenhouse gas emissions (specially of carbon dioxide - CO2, methane - CH4, and nitrous oxide - N2O) released at a higher rate than that of their natural removal from the atmosphere.
Brazil, by means of the Ministry of Science and Technology, has proposed elements for the Protocol being negotiated for signing in Kyoto, Japan, at the Third Conference of the Parties to the Convention, which will take place next December. An occasion when developed countries commitments will be strengthen.
The Brazilian initiative is coherent to the conduct the country has adopted since the negotiation process relative to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, known as the Rio-92. As a matter of fact, we are seeking to contribute towards the correct formulation and solution of problems that arise from the conciliation of social and economic development with the circumstances that lead to global environmental problems, in an equitable way for all countries.
Human activities influence greenhouse gas emissions in a very fundamental manner, since emissions have to do with production (electric energy generation, refineries, steel industries etc.), use of fossil fuels (industry, transportation, dwellings etc.), land use changes (conversion of forests into agriculture and cattle raising areas, planted forests etc.), agriculture (cattle raising, rice production etc.), and other basic activities of humanity.
On the other hand, it is not necessary to cut emissions completely, but keep them within limits that allow them to be compensated by natural mechanisms of emission removal from the atmosphere.
The problem is serious on the one hand, and far-reaching, on the other. Climate change predictions have earned the concern of practically all countries in the world, which have clearly decided to take effective measures regarding this issue.
The solution, however, is not within the reach of emergency measures. The amount of gases, such as CO2, CH4 and N2O, in the atmosphere today, results on average from emissions accumulated over 150 years. Similarly, the effects of current emissions will only be felt within several decades, being reflected in terms of temperature and sea level rise only at the end of the next century.
Moreover, there are estimates that developing countries will be the ones to suffer the most with climate change, since their poorer social and economic systems are generally less prepared to meet the changes.
The science of climate change includes the periodical assessment of the evolution of human knowledge on the issue, which is carried out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - IPCC, a body of the United Nations that publishes a Climate Change Assessment Report every five years.
IPCC's First Assessment Report, published in 1990, incited and supported the Climate Convention negotiations. The main conclusions were that without measures for greenhouse gas emissions reduction, the Earth's climate would become warmer around 3 degrees Celsius at the end of the next century, and the mean sea level would rise about 50 centimeters. It also included a complete review of the remaining scientific uncertainties.
IPCC's Second Assessment Report, published in 1995, confirmed such predictions, and stated that the warming of around half degree Celsius already verified in the last 150 years was a result of human actions, thus strengthening the reliability of the predictions.
Climate change legislation is not very different, bearing some differences, however, to that adopted in the case of the depletion of stratospheric ozone, which protects life from the solar ultraviolet radiation. The Vienna Convention on the protection of the ozone layer registered the decision of the countries on preventing the stratospheric ozone layer from having its density decreased by the action of chemical substances released by man. Subsequently, the Montreal Protocol and amendments on substances that destroy the ozone layer established reduction targets and the eventual abolition of the use of such substances.
The Climate Convention, on the other hand, established as an objective, the stabilization of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at a level that would prevent the climate system (atmosphere, oceans, and biosphere) from being dangerously affected. Additionally, it states that the rate of climate change should not exceed a certain value, so that ecosystems do not encounter difficulties in adapting to changing conditions. It also considered that concentrations stabilization should not be carried out at the expense of sharp reductions in the emission levels, which could adversely affect social and economic development.
In other words, the Climate Convention does not specify which should be the future levels of emissions. To make matters worse, pondering whether a specific climate change is dangerous means, to a great extent, having to consider imponderable values.
Nevertheless, the Convention establishes several principles, the most important of which are:
Also seeking to help with the solution of the global problem, developing countries should grow having as one of their objectives the reduction of the environmental consequences arising from such growth. In the case of Brazil, the country holds the relative advantage of being a small emitter of greenhouse gases, given its current and future hydroelectric potential and the use of renewable fuels, particularly, alcohol.
Incidentally, it is also interesting to note that Brazil, by decreasing the annual rate of gross deforestation in Amazonia from a level superior to 2 million hectares a year to the current 1.5 million hectares a year, is one of the countries that had the greatest relative emission decrease in the world.
Additional emission reductions are certainly beneficial in terms of local pollution, but given our small relative responsibility, would be of little help with the solution of the global problem.
The climate change policy is subject to the decisions already made during the Climate Convention itself and established in the so-called Berlin Mandate a resolution reached by the first conference of the countries that ratified the Climate Convention, which was held in Berlin and determined the negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol.
The Berlin Mandate establishes that developed countries should set quantitative emission reduction targets for 2005, 2010 and 2020, as well as describe the policies and measures that will be necessary to reach these targets, the deadline being the Third Conference of the Parties, which will be held in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997.
For developing countries, which is the case of Brazil, no additional commitments are established, but these countries should advance in the fulfillment of the existing commitments, that is, establishing programs for coping with the problem, without quantitative targets and provided that adequate financial and technological resources are made available by industrialized countries.
Thus, the problem to be discussed in the negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol is, first, the decision on the level of emissions that will be tolerated in the near future, and then, deciding how the burden will be shared among countries for the achievement of the necessary reductions.
The establishment of fair and objective criteria for the sharing of the burden of climate change mitigation is crucial for developing countries. There is a clear tendency towards the substitution of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, agreed in the Convention, for other mechanisms that are in practice a means of transferring the burden of mitigation, instead of the equitable sharing of the burden in accordance with the responsibilities of each country.
The Brazilian proposal of elements for the elaboration of the Kyoto Protocol, prepared by the Ministry of Science and Technology, quantifies, in a practical and objective manner, the sharing of the cost of combating climate change, according to the effective responsibility of each country in causing the problem the principle known as "polluter pays".
Brazil has proposed the adoption of a model pursuant to which the responsibility of each country for inducing climate change be made not in terms of its causes, that is, the greenhouse gas emissions that originated the problem, but in terms of its effects measured by the contribution of each country for the increase in the earth's surface mean temperature the effective climate change induced by these emissions.
Although some studies estimate that developing countries emissions will be equal to those of the industrial countries within two or three decades, the temperature increase due to developing countries emissions will only be equal to the temperature increase due to industrialized countries within more than one century.
According to the Brazilian proposal, industrialized countries will have an individual ceiling that will stipulate the maximum increase in the global mean surface temperature that will be tolerated. This individual ceiling, on its turn, will be calculated taking as a basis the temperature reduction target for the ensemble of the developed countries, the calculation of which is based on the predicted temperature increase that results if the emissions of this group of countries remain constant and equal to 1990 emission levels throughout the whole period of the Protocol, that is, from 1990 to 2020.
This overall reduction target will be divided into individual targets for the reduction of the temperature increase predicted for each industrialized country, according to the effective responsibility of each country for causing the greenhouse effect.
Moreover, the Brazilian proposal contains a mechanism for the provision of financial resources to be used in developing countries, by means of a global fund raised from contributions made as a result of penalties (US$/exceeded ?C) incurred by industrialized countries that do not comply with the agreed quantitative targets.
The resources made available by developed countries may be utilized by developing countries in emission reduction projects (and a small share in adaptation projects) that will allow these countries to advance the implementation of the Convention while continuing their development processes in a sustainable way.
At last, the Brazilian proposal establishes that the funds for mitigation and adaptation projects in developing countries be proportionally limited to the contribution of these countries to climate change, the resources being mainly applied in countries where they are most necessary, that is, in the developing countries that contribute the most to the increase in the earth's mean surface temperature.
The complete text of the Brazilian proposal to the Kyoto Protocol is available on the INTERNET site of the Ministry of Science and Technology, at the following address:: http://www.mct.gov.br/gabin/clima.htm
Energy Sector highlights
Brazilian Proposal for Kyoto
Saturday, 14 February 1998.