Big oil and Brazil, over ambitious climate goals

The climate conference in Katowice, Poland, brings together more than 195 nations hoping to cobble together an agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Brazil, which brings a greater role to this negotiations than it has ever had before, is looking to impress its leadership on this ambitious goal.

The country made a pact to the Paris Agreement in 2014, but since then it has been struggling to reach the goals it set. With its World Cup soccer ambitions, it gave notice that it would turn to another global competition, in terms of mobilizing support.

On the official side, the plan is for Brazil to fight climate change by investing in new technologies and reducing its carbon dioxide emissions. Not every country, or faction, is on board with the sustainability agenda, but there is still a hope that Brazil will move the measure forward.

In December 2014, Petrobras — the state-run oil giant of Brazil — signed an agreement with the United Nations to reduce its carbon emissions by 20 percent over a decade, starting in 2015. The signatories not only announced a higher commitment, but also set up a committee to oversee the cutbacks. A year later, and even though Brazil has failed to take the necessary environmental measures, the company came up with a new goal, aiming to cut its carbon output by 30 percent by 2030.

A 2010 memo established an intergovernmental commission — known as IPCLAP — to offer guidelines and standards for firms dealing with developing sustainable activities. Two years later, IPCLAP published its second edition. In their report, the commission decided to set a five-year countdown for the PSV, or massive private investment in renewable energy, because the post-2015 green growth agenda would be formed in this time frame.

It was considered a big change in Brazil. In general, public support for climate change is quite weak, the IPCLAP document notes. Yet within a few years, Petrobras was taking steps to reduce its carbon dioxide output. Indeed, its latest proposal was to not just slash emissions, but reduce them by 60 percent by 2030, after the Paris agreement.

The target was delayed, along with IPCLAP’s timetable, until 2018, after Brazil signed on to the Paris agreement in late 2015. In that time, the country’s oil output grew, its GDP grew, and its national currency increased against the U.S. dollar.

The IPCLAP documents didn’t mention this. But Petrobras still presented an ambitious reduction plan. The questions now are whether it will get there.

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