Brazil's sixth World Cup dream may have been postponed. But Brazil can still do well in other arenas that, just like sports, evoke the spirit of union and diplomacy.
In the field of biodiversity, the advantage is that the victory is collective. Facing the urgent need to stop the global crisis of species and ecosystem loss, which threatens to undermine the basis of life support on Earth, the country has every need to wear the forward shirt.
The country is home to 20% of the world's known species of plants and animals and 60% of the largest tropical forest on the planet, the Amazon, essential for the planetary climate balance. But between our natural vocation and the forging of the player most capable of scoring goals on the field there is a long way to go.
To understand what Brazil needs to do to score the "goals" that will effectively help the world halting the loss of biodiversity, Um Só Planeta heard specialists on the subject who are closely following the negotiations of the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15), held in Montreal, Canada. The meeting brings together representatives from over 190 countries to give birth to a global pact capable of transforming society's relationship with nature and of curbing damage to natural ecosystems, just as the Paris Agreement seeks to address the climate emergency.
Kick out deforestation
The executive director of The Nature Conservancy Brazil (TNC Brasil), Frineia Rezende easily answers the question about how Brazil can help stop the global loss of biodiversity. In order to score this goal, the country cannot wait for a specific target to emerge — the COP15 discusses the goal of the world having 30% of land and sea areas conserved by 2030, although other percentage variations are also suggested.
"We are able to be at the forefront of this agenda by placing biodiversity as a priority for the conservation of natural areas, whether forests or other ecosystems, ensuring prosperity for people, for the economy and for nature," she justifies.
In order to achieve this, the country must use command and control actions, enforcing environmental laws and state responsibilities. She says that the Brazilian environmental legislation is one of the most complete, so implementing and enforcing it already gives the country an advantage in protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Another important step in this discussion, according to the TNC director, is the sustainable use of biodiversity resources.
"Brazil has signed important international commitments, such as the Nagoya Protocol, and even has its own legislation (Law 13,123/15), regulating access to genetic resources and benefit sharing in the territory. But it still has the challenge of internalizing these commitments in public policies and thus strengthen their implementation," she points out.
Tactical positioning in the field
In the field of international relations, Brazil's positive performance on this front will reflect on the country's environmental image and the economic sustainability. This includes several important sectors from agriculture to industry, and future prospects for investments and the export of Brazilian products to foreign markets.
"The first set of goals of the global framework aims precisely to eliminate threats to biodiversity and the biggest one is habitat conversion. In this sense, the main goal that Brazil can do is to bring a clear political message that it is not necessary to deforest in order to develop and that the areas that have already been converted can be recovered or better used," points out Henrique Luz, technical manager of the Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development (CEBDS).
Present at COP15, CEBDS advocates for directing investments toward solutions that generate a positive impact on nature and for the encouragement of innovative projects.
During the CBD, the Council will launch the Action Platform for Nature, a private sector movement to understand and manage its impacts on biodiversity through the collective implementation of new frameworks, targets and international legislation. The platform will be launched in partnership with the WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development), the TNFD (Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures) and the Nature Climate Alliance.
Michel Santos, public policy and advocacy manager at WWF-Brazil, shares the expectation that the country will once again lead global negotiations, both on climate and biodiversity.
"Brazil needs to come out of the 'cornes' and rescue the spirit that has always accompanied us, a constructive spirit, proposing solutions and, why not, return with more robust and bold positions, after all, we are world champions in biodiversity and our voice needs to be heard and recognized," he says. "Unfortunately, in the last four years, what we have noticed is the total loss of Brazil's protagonism in multilateral discussions," he adds, referring to the dismantling of environmental policies and bodies under president Jair Bolsonaro's administration.
Playing to safeguard the rights of indigenous and traditional people
Diego Casaes, Avaaz's campaign director in Brazil, highlights the strong presence of Brazilian civil society, indigenous people, quilombolas and local communities in Montreal and and how the agreement that will come out of there will influence global efforts to conserve biodiversity and address the climate emergency this decade.
"As a megabiodiverse country that is home to the Amazon basin, with large amounts of fresh water and teeming with species, Brazil has a global responsibility to protect biodiversity. For example, in all scientific assessments on climate change, there is no way to keep the 1.5°C target without the Amazon and tropical forests. And that's where rights come in: without guaranteeing the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities and the most vulnerable, the guardians of the forest will not be able to continue living in harmony with nature", he says.
Representing 5% of the world's population, indigenous people inhabit regions that contain about 80% of the planet's biodiversity. Alongside other traditional communities, they help preserve natural riches that generate countless economic, social, and ecological benefits.
"These are the people who live in nature and manage to conserve it properly," adds Michel Santos, manager of public policy and advocacy at WWF-Brazil. "But what we have seen in the last four years is parks, conservation units and indigenous territories being invaded and deforested. In 2021 alone, 40.5% of indigenous lands suffered deforestation, according to a Mapbiomas survey.
Stop chickening out
Like all the countries present at COP15, Brazil also has an agenda of its own interests. One of the most striking "attacks" by the country is in the discussion about financing for biodiversity. The creation of a global fund with resources donated by developed countries to finance conservation and restoration projects in the most biodiverse developing countries, payment for environmental services and for "historical reparations", such as "irreversible" losses and damage to biodiversity, are part of the priority demands that Brazil has historically brought to the CBD discussion.
But there are other important moves for global biodiversity in which the country still needs to advance, but remains resistant. Support for agro-ecology and the inclusion of efforts to reduce the use of pesticides are some of them, according to a survey made by Carbon Brief, a platform specialized in environmental and climate issues.
"Regarding goal 7, there is an intention of the Convention to reduce the use of pesticides, and Brazil has not supported this in a qualified way. The country has proposed alternative texts, but that doesn't translate what the urgency of this goal. It is worth remembering that the Congress in Brazil is currently working on a bill to make pesticides more flexible. We at WWF defend healthy food and condemn the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Nor can we accept that an international negotiation like COP15 allows countries to continue to make the use of pesticides more flexible", asserts Michel Santos.
"And the other goal is directly related to this. Brazil has been resisting to recognize agroecology as a form of sustainable agriculture in the text of this convention. My particular interpretation is that these two agendas suffer a strong influence of the lobby from parts of the more retrograde Brazilian agrobusiness groups. It is important to emphasize that in the past Brazil has invested heavily in family farming and agroecology as important elements of agriculture that produce healthier food and respect the biocapacity of our planet," he adds.
This story was produced as part of the 2022 CBD COP15 Fellowship organized by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network. It was first published by Um So Planeta in Portuguese on 14 December 2022 and has been translated to English and lightly edited for length and clarity.
Banner image: White-collared sloth (Bradypus torquatus), an endangered species, hanging from a tree in Brazil / Credit: Kevin Schafer/GettyImages.