21 May, 2010

Brazil delays enabling legislation on climate change

Sergio Abranches

After a fast-track approval of the climate change bill, its enabling legislation is deadlocked at the Civil Household. The bill was rushed through Congress for president Lula to arrive in Copenhagen with the law already signed. But without the enabling legislation it is useless, and emission reduction targets cannot be enforced.

The Civil Household filters and process all government proposals before they are taken to the President. While Chief of Civil Household, Presidential candidate Dilma Roussef commanded all aspects of government policy but foreign affairs with a very strong hand and an outstretched arm. She has never been very enthusiastic about climate change policies.

Sources who have been involved in the decision-making process told me that conflict among government representatives responding to different sectoral interests have become almost intractable. A majority among them resists mandating any carbon curbing action other than reducing deforestation. There is strong resistance to any emission reduction targeting for the industrial, energy, and transportation sectors.

There are several sources of veto to sectoral actions on climate change. The officials in charge of climate policy at the Ministry of Science and Technology are against any carbon reduction policy other than curbing deforestation. They claim Brazil already has a low carbon economy. Scientists who work at the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), under the Ministry of Science and Technology umbrella, strongly disagree. They are among the most active advocates for fast and encompassing climate change regulation. The Development, Transportation, Energy, and Agriculture ministries also oppose adopting targeted sectoral actions. To them any delay on regulation would be welcome, especially in the pre-electoral and campaign seasons. It is obvious to anyone with a minimum knowledge of the Brazilian economy that it belongs to the high carbon family. It will move faster towards higher levels of carbon intensity, if nothing is done.

Since Dilma Roussef’s times the Civil Household has resisted climate change-oriented policies. The two first Environment ministers, Marina Silva and Carlos Minc, have always had to fight for their policies, often clashing with other ministers, and frequently failing to get them approved by the President.

In one of the fiercest confrontations around policies for the Amazon region, Marina Silva, now an opposition presidential bidder, has resigned. She was replaced by Carlos Minc who, through confrontation and concession, was able to get Lula’s approval to the policy now filed under the Copenhagen Accord.  Minc left the Ministry to run for the state of Rio de Janeiro’s House of Representatives.

The incumbent minister, Izabella Teixeira, does not have the leadership nor the experience required to break this deadlock. The present Chief of Civil Household also lacks expertise and leadership. Without President Lula’s direct intervention it is unlikely regulation would be adopted anytime before this year’s elections.

This places Brazil far behind its two major partners in the BASIC group, China and India. After the BASIC and President Obama brokered the Copenhagen Accord, both China and India have been very active in adopting new policies that would enable them to meet the targets they’ve registered on the Accord’s Annex.

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