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Check out our team's highlights from last week below:

1) Climate Change: from warming seas to energy expansion.

The current global climate scenario presents a series of extreme events and alarming trends, ranging from the deterioration of marine ecosystems to increased energy demand. The document from the Climate Change and Socio-Environmental Justice Forum, issued after a national seminar, expresses concerns about practices that aggravate climate change and socio-environmental injustices.

Brazilian corals are facing waves of bleaching due to ocean warming, compromising marine biodiversity and the local economy. Meanwhile, Brazil experiences excessive heat, droughts and torrential rains, highlighting its vulnerability to climate change, with potential temperature rises that threaten the environmental and social balance. Record demand for electricity reflects the intensity of the current heatwaves, putting pressure on the country's energy infrastructure.

Brazil's soybean harvest is being affected by extreme weather events, with heat and irregular rainfall negatively impacting production. Forecasts for the 2023/2024 harvest have been revised downwards by APROSOJA and CONAB, reflecting the challenges faced by agribusiness, which is responsible for around a third of the country's greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the government plans to launch a credit line for affected rural producers, highlighting the sector's dependence on state resources and the contradictions in its criticism of environmental policies.

Despite this critical scenario, the US achieved a new oil production record in 2023, with an average of 12.9 million barrels per day, surpassing the previous mark of 12.3 million. This increase reflects the USA's position as the world leader in oil production for the sixth consecutive year and highlights the expansion of the fossil fuel industry at a time of climate urgency. US production, along with that of Russia and Saudi Arabia, makes up around 40% of global production, highlighting the growing global dependence on fossil fuels and the complexities of the energy transition.

The climate emergency has been exacerbated by disinformation, pointing to climate denialism as a significant barrier to efforts to combat the climate crisis. Disinformation not only creates doubts about climate science, but also weakens popular pressure for urgent action, highlighting the need to actively combat these risks and defend the integrity of science and public engagement.

In contrast, the international community is seeking solutions, such as the climate negotiations led by Azerbaijan at COP29, aimed at building bridges between rich and poor nations to effectively combat climate change. A scenario that calls on humanity to adopt urgent and cooperative measures to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change and move towards a sustainable future.

Sources: CIM, Agência Brasil #1, ClimaInfo #1, BBC, Agência Brasil #2, ClimaInfo #2, G1, O Eco, ClimaInfo #3.

2) The dichotomy of deforestation: agribusiness, mining and the environmental crisis

The advance of deforestation on Brazilian land, especially in the Cerrado and the Amazon, brings to light the complex web of environmental problems facing the country. In MATOPIBA, the region that covers parts of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia, the flawed management of Vegetation Suppression Authorizations indicates a worrying scenario, with around half of deforestation being legal, but not very transparent or controlled. This highlights the urgent need for greater rigidity and clarity in environmental management policies.

On the other hand, the expansion of soy agriculture, with industry giants like Cargill and Bunge at the center of attention, indicates the presence of practices that link agricultural production to deforestation, directly confronting commitments to sustainability. This situation is exacerbated by the advance of illegal mining, which not only deforests significant areas in the Amazon and in Brazil's largest park, the Montanhas do Tumucumaque National Park, but also poses direct risks to indigenous communities and local biodiversity.

Meanwhile, the Cerrado is experiencing an alarming increase in deforestation, contrasting with the downward trend in the Amazon, which underscores the importance of differentiated approaches for each biome. This increase reflects not only illegal action, but also authorized action, revealing gaps in environmental policies that need to be filled to ensure the effective conservation of these essential ecosystems.

Together, these scenarios paint a picture of the intimate and intricate relationship between economic development and environmental preservation, where urgent action is needed to harmonize short-term interests with long-term sustainability, ensuring the protection of critical ecosystems and the communities that depend on them.

Source: O Eco #1, Agência Pública, Green Peace, ClimaInfo #1, ClimaInfo #2, O Eco #2.

3) Sustainability on the couch: green jobs under the microscope of effectiveness

In today's chaotic reality, marked by growing environmental awareness, the emergence of "green jobs" appears as a bright promise, a kind of ray in the blue sky, suggesting a potential harmony between economic development and sustainability. Brazil stands out in this movement, embracing second place globally in the generation of these opportunities, especially in sectors such as biofuels and renewable energies. This trend reflects not only a response to the climate imperative, but also anticipates a significant reconfiguration of the job market, with the promise of millions of new vacancies by 2030, in line with mitigating the effects of climate change.

However, alongside this optimism, pertinent questions arise about the substance and real impact of these initiatives. The growth of the concept of green employment, although encouraging at first, calls for a more cautious reflection on its effectiveness and integrity. In the light of greenwashing, a practice where solutions supposedly beneficial to the environment are nothing more than marketing strategies devoid of real effectiveness, green jobs are under critical scrutiny. This questioning is not intended to delegitimize the importance of these initiatives, but rather to encourage a more careful analysis of how and to what extent these jobs contribute to real environmental transformation, rather than just serving as a green veneer for usually predatory business practices.

This duality is further highlighted by the debate around so-called "false solutions", such as electric cars and carbon markets, which, despite their attractive veneer of innovation, may not meet the expectations of a truly effective climate solution. This criticism highlights the complexity of discerning between what is genuine progress towards sustainability and what may be a maneuver to perpetuate a status quo disguised as novelty.

In this sense, while green jobs represent a promising horizon, they also invite further reflection on their nature and impact. The celebration of this trend comes with a caveat about the need for vigilance and strict criteria to ensure that the move towards a green economy is both substantial and authentic. Viewing this new wave of opportunities with a questioning eye does not diminish its potential contribution; on the contrary, it reinforces the importance of a conscious transition that is truly committed to the principles of sustainability.

Sources: O Eco, Globo Rural.

4) Climate and life: a global journey for biodiversity

The world is facing unprecedented climate problems and multinational companies and financial institutions are at a crossroads between economic expansion and environmental responsibility. At a time when countries recognized for their sustainable environmental policies, such as Norway and France, face the contradiction of their corporations causing significant environmental damage in regions such as Barcarena, the complexity of global interactions is evident. This illustrates a striking contradiction between discourse and practice.

Similarly, this dualism is also mirrored in the actions of financial institutions such as Santander, with substantial investments in Brazilian agribusiness, which simultaneously finances high-carbon agricultural practices while investing in carbon sequestration initiatives, highlighting the complexity and contradiction intrinsic to the role of financiers in the climate crisis. This panorama highlights an era of contradictions, where efforts towards decarbonization and sustainability coexist with practices that perpetuate environmental damage. Furthermore, the discrepancies and divergences between the sustainable image projected by some nations and the actions of their companies abroad illustrate the need for a more serious and effective commitment to truly sustainable practices and a more integrated and coherent approach to the management of natural resources.

Sources: Sumaúma, Globo Rural #1, Globo Rural #2.

5) Between profit and land: a look at agribusiness incentives and tax fraud

Continuing the discussions on the environmental and socio-economic implications of agribusiness, the sector's practices raise a number of critical environmental and economic issues, highlighting a complex panorama of unbridled use of natural resources, questionable tax incentive policies and fraudulent actions. The unbridled extraction of resources, whether through intensive agriculture or logging, not only compromises environmental sustainability but also exacerbates the water crisis, reflecting a blatant dissonance between economic development and ecological preservation.

Furthermore, the tax evasion scheme, involving the issuing of false electronic invoices, reveals a scenario of irregularities and financial manipulations that distort the economy and unfairly allocate the tax burden. This operation, symbolically named Dagon, in reference to a deity associated with agriculture, uncovers an underworld of illegal transactions estimated to be worth billions, highlighting the urgent need for stricter supervision and regulation.

In addition, the problem surrounding the tax benefits granted to the agrochemical sector is another point of controversy. With the Federal Supreme Court (STF) resuming its judgment on the constitutionality of these incentives, a crucial debate is emerging about the balance between the need to maintain agricultural competitiveness and the imperatives of public health and environmental protection. The granting of tax breaks for pesticides, valued at billions of dollars, calls into question the principles of truly sustainable development, suggesting the prevalence of economic interests to the detriment of collective well-being and ecological integrity.

In this context, the resistance of certain sectors to the imposition of stricter criteria for granting tax incentives based on the toxicity of pesticides reveals the complexity of the intersection between politics, economics and the environment. The proposal to adopt criteria that consider environmental and health impacts in the sector's tax policy reflects an attempt to harmonize economic interests with environmental and social responsibility, indicating possible paths towards a socio-environmentally sustainable agriculture that is less dependent on harmful substances.

This scenario illustrates the need to review current policies and practices, with a view to a transition to more responsible and sustainable production models. The issues raised reinforce the importance of a broad and inclusive debate on the future directions of agribusiness, considering both the need for food security and the imperatives of effective environmental and social emancipation.

Sources: Outras Palavras, ClimaInfo, MAM Nacional, Agência Brasil, Jota.

6) Resistance, recognition and renewal: socio-environmental and cultural impacts of energy expansion in Brazil

Against a backdrop of intense socio-environmental transformations, the expansion of wind and solar energy in Brazil has raised crucial debates about sustainability, cultural preservation and the rights of traditional communities. Several recent cases illustrate the problems and tensions inherent in the search for a renewable energy model that also respects social and environmental dimensions.

In the Amazon, climatic extremes intensified by human action confront the resilience of local communities and the sustainability of ecosystems, pointing to the urgent need for effective public policies that promote well-being and environmental preservation. At the same time, in Paraíba's Caatinga, the construction of wind farms has prompted demonstrations by women who oppose the clearing of vast areas of native vegetation, revealing a conflict between the generation of renewable energy and the conservation of local biomes.

The circular economy is emerging as a promising alternative, with bars and restaurants adopting sustainable practices such as generating solar energy and using waste, reflecting a paradigm shift in the service sector. In the same direction, the future of hospitality points to the adoption of sustainable strategies, such as the use of clean energy and efficient resource management, indicating that sustainability is an irreversible trend in tourism.

The historical claim to land by quilombola communities, such as the one in Alto Ribeira, highlights the importance of reparation policies and recognition of the territorial rights of traditional populations. This context is aggravated by the case of peasant Antonio Tavares, whose murder by security forces during a demonstration for land reform reflects the persistent land conflicts in the country and the need for justice and reparation for victims of rural violence.

The country's largest wind energy project, located between Rio Grande do Norte and Paraíba, points to the dilemma between energy development and the preservation of archaeological heritage. The installation of 372 wind towers threatens archaeological sites and cultural heritage, raising questions about the adequacy of impact studies and community participation in decisions about large projects.

The removal of a fishing village in Ceará to make way for a wind farm highlights the complex interactions between development, compensation and socio-environmental impacts. Despite the generation of clean energy, the lack of effective dialogue and inadequate assessment of the impacts on traditional communities highlight flaws in the licensing process and in the implementation of large-scale projects.

These cases underline the need for a balance between the expansion of energy infrastructure and the preservation of ecosystems, cultures and traditional ways of life. The search for sustainable development demands not only the adoption of clean technologies, but also inclusion, respect and socio-cultural emancipation as fundamental pillars in the energy transition.

Sources: Brasil de Fato #1, UOL, ECOA, Brasil de Fato #2, Um Só Planeta, Jornal da USP, Mongabay, Terra de Direitos.

Date of publication: 18/03/2024

Roberto Alexandre Levy

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