Dispatch from Brazil: climate change

by Antonio Pasolini on July 27, 2010

Brazilian Climate Change Ambassador, Sérgio Serra

Mild-mannered and soft-spoken Sérgio Serra has a tough job in his hands. He is the Brazilian Climate Change Ambassador, the representative of a country that emerged from the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen last October with one of the most ambitious emissions targets (around 37% by 2020), which was signed into law. Serra became a mouthpiece for the Brazilian delegation in Copenhagen, when delegates from all over the world scrambled to get a last-minute non-binding deal.

“The fact that so many people interpreted COP15 as a failure makes everyone guilty of that”, says Serra during a meeting with the press attended by Energy Refuge last Thursday (22) in Brasília, the capital of Brazil. “Expectations were irrationally high”, he concludes and adds: “One of the bad consequences of COP15 was that some countries saw it as undemocratic. It left some scars. We don’t think the Copenhagen agreement is the real answer, but we would get nowhere if we didn’t focus on transparent solutions.”

Serra believes the current mood is more sober and the outlook for COP-16 next December in Cancun more realistic. He worries that the public and the media’s interest has waned, though. “If there is less pressure, negotiators will not deliver as much”, he warns.

“Here in Brazil we are focused on getting positive results in Cancun. We are in a comfortable position because we put forward at COP15 a set of mitigation actions. We are quite consensual inside the country”, Serra says.

Alongside other emerging countries, Brazil has formed BASIC, which stands for Brazil, South Africa, India and China, a non-negotiating group of countries from the G77 in similar situations. “We are not a breakaway group”, Serra emphasizes. “Our meetings are to exchange ideas.”

BASIC met on Sunday and yesterday (25-26) in Rio de Janeiro to discuss international climate change efforts and pinpoint areas in which progress can be made in the run-up to COP16 .

Climate equity was the focus of the meeting. One of the approaches agreed upon considers the elements for an equitable and balanced outcome in Cancun, covering, for example, different initiatives which could be supported by fast-start finance.

Keeping global temperature increase below 2oC with regard to pre-industrial levels was another highlight of the meeting. Measures should consider the social and economic needs of developing countries. A global goal for emission reductions should be preceded by the definition of a paradigm for equitable burden sharing.

BASIC ministers emphasized the importance of the unity of the Group of 77 and China and its role in multilateral negotiations, including in the construction and strengthening of the climate change regime. They also pointed to the need of a distinction between MRV (Measurable, Reportable, Verifiable) of emission reductions commitments by developed countries and MRV of nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMA) by developing countries. The next meeting of the BASIC group is scheduled for October in China.

“Cancun will be just another step towards a final result. One of the reasons is because the Americans will not be ready”, says Serra. “There is a wait-and-see mood in relation to America”, he added, still unaware that, just as he spoke to us, the international media had started reporting that American congress had postponed an effort to pass broad legislation to fight climate change until September, making it harder for the country to be ready for December.

“The answer is not a limited agreement between the biggest polluters, because countries that are affected have to be part of the negotiation”, says Serra, who believes fast-tracking financing will boost confidence in the process. He has confidence in his own country, though. “We have been ambitious about deforestation even before that was talked about”, he says. “We have some credibility to broker deals.”

Disclosure: Energy Refuge’s trip to Brazil was sponsored by Apex, a governmental agency that promotes trade and investment in Brazil, with funding provided by Petrobras, Eletrobras and Banco do Brasil.

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