Dilma speech at the UN Climate Summit: More of the same

Contrary to her fellow BRIC counterparts Dilma Rousseff attended the UN Climate Summit. This was important and highlights the importance that Brazil gives to climate negotiations. Here I share a first reaction to the content of the speech.

Dilma´s speech this morning did not surprise anyone. She used the opportunity to remind the world about Brazil's past accomplishments in cutting deforestation and consequently cutting emissions. She also re-affirmed Brazil´s political positioning and key principles for the future agreement.

Although expected, it was disappointing that Dilma opted for a “business as usual" speech. By playing safe and avoiding making any new commitments Dilma lost the opportunity to maintain the leadership on climate change that Lula started in Copenhagen. We lost the opportunity to show Brazil´s commitment and urgency in the global fight against climate change and to point out how the vision of a low carbon future will benefit Brazil´s sustainable development

Harvesting the fruits of the past

Dilma reminded diplomats and heads of States that in 2009 at Copenhagen, Brazil had set ambitious voluntary measures to curb emissions (36 and 39% until 2020) and that with its 79% cut in deforestation in the last 10 years Brazil is placed to meet its targets.

Yes, we have to congratulate Lula for his vision and courage in Copenhagen in setting these targets and we recognize Brazil´s important achievement in the area of deforestation.However, Brazil´s forest centric discourse and commitments are becoming limited by marginal gains in emission reductions in the future.

Dilma´s emphasis on agriculture

Dilma´s emphasis on agriculture during her speech was very interesting as it appeared to be directed to the national electoral audience, rather than to diplomats. By suggesting there will be further Government support and investment to ensure that production of grains will not suffer from the need to ensure lower emissions in the sector, Dilma was speaking to one of the most powerful political groups in Brazil, the agribusiness sector. Although measures in this area are welcome and obviously necessary, specially for agroecology, it would also have been important to acknowledge that agriculture is already responsible for almost one third of Brazilian carbon emissions and that the agribusiness sector was responsible for the approval of a weak Forest Code,that has already started compromising Brazil's deforestation efforts.

Disappointing to see that Dilma ignored the energy and transport sectors

It was disappointing that Dilma totally ignored the growing role of the energy and transport sectors in Brazil´s carbon emissions patterns.The deliberate manner in which Dilma´s speech ignored the energy sector, not even acknowledging Brazil´s present impressive low carbon energy matrix, make us suspicious of her lack of commitment to a clean energy future.Was Dilma preparing the ground for the growing role that she hopes or expects that the oil and thermoelectric will have in our energy sector?

The right sign for the economy

One of the best parts of Dilma’s speech was the reference she made to the importance of investing on mitigation and adaptation. “The costs to face climate change challenges are high, but the benefits compensate them”. This was a clear message to investors in the midst of an announcement of a new adaptation programme.

Which principles will guide Brazil position for the new Climate Agreement?

Dilma reiterated the importance of a universal and binding climate agreement for Brazil which covers not only mitigation but also adaptation, finance and technology transfer.This is welcome and Brazil´s leadership in reinforcing the important role of a binding multilateral agreement must be applauded.

And it would not have been a Brazilian speech if she had not emphasized the importance of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.While no one is suggesting that we should forget the past or that developed countries should escape their responsibilities, it would have been nice to hear something new in relation to the differentiated responsibilities of emerging countries and how the principle of relative capability should be applied.

Dilma´s participation in the Climate Summit two weeks before the Presidential Election was an important and courageous step.

However this may have affected the tone of her speech. So, let us hope that the lack of urgency and leadership expressed by Dilma during the Climate Summit was in part due to that context.

At the COP in Peru in December,Brazil will have a new opportunity to show its leadership. Wee hope it will not miss that chance

Upcoming article sneak peek

What to Expect on Climate from Latin America's New Presidents?

Newsletter