FAPESP and the Sustainable Development Goals

States and cities have potential to advance climate change mitigation

States and cities have potential to advance climate change mitigation

Action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by subnational governments could help countries achieve their climate targets and contribute to the post-pandemic economic recovery, experts suggested at an event hosted by FAPESP (image: reproduction)

Published on 07/27/2021

By Elton Alisson  |  Agência FAPESP – Most states and cities worldwide have implemented adaptive measures to deal with the effects of climate change. Their plans prioritize mitigation of the impact of extreme weather events such as droughts and floods on people and infrastructure. However, subnational governments can do more by helping their respective countries achieve greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and rebuild their economies on a low-carbon basis in the post-pandemic period.

These are some of the key findings of the researchers who took part in a webinar on Subnational Actions to Implement Brazil’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), held on July 6.

This was the third and last webinar in the series COP26: Discussing Brazil’s NDC hosted by FAPESP’s Research Program on Global Climate Change (RPGCC) with the aim of discussing aspects of the NDC and the adjustments recently proposed by the government as part of its target review.

“Subnational governments typically focus on adaptation rather than cutting emissions, but there are actions that can help advance the mitigation agenda in the energy sector and others,” said Suzana Kahn Ribeiro, a professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).

Demand for electricity as well as other forms of energy is set to rise in the coming decades, despite improvements in energy efficiency. To meet this growing demand, it will be necessary to increase the share of renewables in distributed generation (where electricity is produced at or near the point of use) for industrial and residential consumers as well as urban transit.

To achieve these goals, and at the same time to stimulate the post-pandemic economic recovery, European Union countries such as Germany have recently announced investment packages to boost electricity-powered transportation, use of renewables, and energy efficiency, among others. “These investment packages focus on urban solutions, which have a subnational bias,” Ribeiro said. “Of course, central government must be aligned, but subnational governments will actually carry out the actions required.”

Regional resources

Renewable regional resources will have to be deployed in order to achieve the requisite growth of distributed generation in cities, Ribeiro said. 

In the state of São Paulo, one of the main resources, albeit not the only one, is ethanol from sugarcane, according to Oswaldo Lucon, coordinator of the Brazilian Forum on Climate Change and an advisor to the São Paulo State Department of Infrastructure and the Environment.

A climate action plan for the state is currently under discussion, with five main drivers, one of which is to meet the fast-rising demand for electrification not only via generation of electric power but also by storing power and integrating several sources, Lucon said.

“We want to have a surplus supply of power thanks to the growing use of renewables, so we can focus on regulating intermittency,” he stressed.

Another pillar of São Paulo’s climate plan will be promoting advanced fuels such as hydrogen produced from water electrolysis or ethanol steam reforming, and biofuels such as hydrated vegetable oil (HVO) for use in transportation.

This is one of the sectors subnational environmental legislation has not yet succeeded in regulating because of jurisdictional constraints, according to Lucon. “One of the challenges of subnational climate policies is the jurisdiction issue,” he said. “We found it enormously hard to ban the sale of chrysotile asbestos [used to make roofing] in São Paulo. It was contested and the litigation went all the way to the STF [Brazil’s Supreme Court]. A decision to allow the ban was finally reached after many years. Imagine the difficulty of prohibiting the circulation of an inefficient vehicle in a subnational territory.”

At the national level, one of the obstacles to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is a lack of regulation of limits, Lucon argued. The only emissions on which national legislation has set limits are particulate matter and sulfur and nitrogen oxides (SOx and NOx). Fixed limits do not exist for emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

“For Brazil’s NDC to pledge a 37% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 against 2005 levels, for example, is meaningless unless the effort to do so is shared by all subnational entities, which must put programs in place to achieve the target,” Lucon said.

A joint survey of subnational initiatives to implement Brazil’s NDC, conducted by the Brazilian Association of State Environmental Entities (ABEMA) and the Strategic Partnership for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement (SPIPA) implemented by GIZ, Germany’s international cooperation agency, found that only 40% of states have greenhouse gas emission reduction targets aligned with the Paris Agreement.

“We also found through this study that only 43% of states have any regulation of payment for environmental services or REDD+ [reductions in emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, which can be rewarded financially in developing countries],” said Inamara Santos Melo from the Pernambuco State Department for Sustainability and the Environment and ABEMA’s climate technical lead. ABEMA’s members include 27 state departments, and 21 government-sponsored entities and foundations responsible for implementing environmental policies.

Lack of continuous funding

Lack of consistent funding to keep forests standing and reduce emissions is one of the challenges faced by 38 subnational jurisdictions that are home to 28% of the world’s tropical forests in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Spain and the United States, said Daniel Nepstad, a tropical ecologist who runs the Earth Innovation Institute.

The funds available to these subnational governments amounted to USD 315 million in 2010-14 but fell to USD 288 million in 2015-19, even though the number of jurisdictions applying for these investments jumped from nine to 30 in the same period.

“Just two states, Acre and Mato Grosso, have managed to sign REDD+ results-based payment agreements, and one of the few funding initiatives announced recently came from Norway, which is to award USD 25 million for this purpose,” Nepstad said.

Norway is also behind the Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest finance (LEAF) Coalition, launched in April by a group of governments including the US and UK, as well as several large companies, to mobilize at least USD 1 billion in public and private funding that will be used to pay countries or local government for results in terms of reducing deforestation.

“It’s the first time there has been specific signaling for the purchase of REDD+ program credits on a jurisdictional scale,” Nepstad said.

However, while on one hand there are incentives for subnational governments to reduce emissions, on the other hand, there is no funding to cover the cost of achieving such reductions. “Payment for results isn’t sufficient,” he stressed.

A recording of the entire event can be watched at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BOJifpgDrY


Source: https://agencia.fapesp.br/36438