Fact Box

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Natural get-together


If there is one field where international cooperation has been fluid, it is the struggle to mitigate the effects of global warming and climate change. Although there are many other problems that demand solving, such as protectionism, the migration crises, territorial disputes, the control of weapons of mass destruction, the Palestine-Israeli conflict and restrictions in the field of 5G internet technologies, among others, it is environmental problems that have impacted every country globally. It is an issue on which the people of various countries have forced their governments to adopt a collaborative attitude. In this sense, the United States' return to the global climate talks removes a significant obstacle in the search for consensus in global environmental governance.

This sense of urgency stems from extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods, blizzards, typhoons, hurricanes, tornadoes and melting glaciers in the Arctic, the Antarctic, the Himalayas and the Andes. Such events have jeopardized food production, the supply of drinking water to large cities, and caused migratory waves as a result of the desertification of vast territories. As a theme in international relations, the environment began to gain substance in 1972, with the Stockholm Conference. Since then, it has assumed ever greater importance, notably the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the Kyoto Protocol adopted at the third Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1997, and more recently at the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Governments have sought an international consensus and commitments have been made to create economic models that are neutral in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, as already announced by China, the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States. Nevertheless, we have to note that many of these positions are due to technological advances in renewable energies, such as wind and photovoltaic generation, and the replacement of fossil fuel-powered vehicles by models with electric batteries. Also, it is worth mentioning the change in the mindset of consumers, who are increasingly adopting an environmentally sustainable consumption pattern, especially in the richer countries.

At this moment when climate negotiations are being unlocked, it is essential to rescue the cooperation and negotiation mechanisms of developing countries, something that until 2016 was done by the BASIC group (Brazil, South Africa, India and China), which played a crucial role in coordinating the interests of these countries in global governance forums. The political changes that have occurred since 2015 in some countries stopped this articulation, but it needs to be restarted by the BASIC countries. In this regard, it is important to emphasize the complementarity of the interests of two of the largest countries in sustainable development: Brazil and China.

Beyond acting together in global conferences, Brazil and China can cooperate in practical ways to mitigate fossil energy dependence, sustainable development, combating deforestation of important Brazilian biomes such as the Amazon rainforest, the Cerrados grassland, and the Pantanal wetland. This long-term cooperation should be a state policy and not subject to periodic political changes derived from the Brazilian political system.

From a renewable energy perspective, China has significant technological advances in the production of clean energy generation equipment, such as wind power rotors and photovoltaic panels. The productivity gains of Chinese companies have greatly cheapened the cost of power generation, facilitating the substitution of fossil fuels with wind and solar energy. In this respect, one must consider the continental dimensions of Brazil, a tropical country in which sunny days exceed 300 days per year. However, besides this natural advantage, Brazil has a scientific and technological base that could work together with Chinese laboratories and companies to bring part of the production chain of this equipment to Brazil. The country also has a tradition of producing renewable energy, such as ethanol from sugar cane and biodiesel made from oilseeds such as soy and corn. In addition, cooperation on the supply of cheap and renewable energy can facilitate the entry of other Chinese companies that can help the country re-industrialize since dependence on the export of commodities is politically unsustainable.

On the other hand, bilateral cooperation could enhance agricultural, forestry and livestock production productivity, which could save scarce resources such as water, fertilizers and land, thus avoiding the expansion of the agricultural frontier and deforestation. In this sense, it is worth mentioning a Brazil-China webinar, held on May 20, with the participation of China's Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Tang Renjian, Chinese Ambassador in Brazil Yang Wanming, Brazil's Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, Tereza Cristina, and Marcos Troyjo, president of the New Development Bank (NDB).

The Chinese minister suggested several proposals for joint action, from technical training and technological innovation in areas such as the creation of new cultivars, conservation of arable land, resource recycling, biodiversity and climate change, to the promotion of bilateral trade via aligning investment projects, increasing facilitation and optimizing the agricultural investment environment, and to the consolidation of multilateral cooperation, taking into account that sustainable development depends on peace and stability and an equitable and fair international order. On her part, the Brazilian minister stressed that the two countries "had built a relationship of great trust, quality, safety, and sustainability" and "There are conditions to expand and diversify the supply of Brazilian products for consumption by the Chinese population".

There is a lot of room for cooperation between Brazil and China. Working together, both countries can contribute to mitigating climate change effects and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. New ongoing research in universities and laboratories in both countries, on clean energy, the internet of things, 5G, more productive seeds and new agricultural techniques and technology, can improve productivity and save inputs and natural resources. The fight against environmental degradation must be carried out not only by speeches and international conferences, but by concrete actions.

The author is a professor of international political economy at Sao Paulo State University (UNESP). The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.