Closing the ambition cycle with Race to Zero in Brazil: A warm-up for COP26

With the increase in commercial interest for climate solutions, more companies are acknowledging a need to invest in the zero-carbon economy and to minimize their environmental impacts. At the same time, local and regional governments are trying to prioritize mitigation and adaption policies in light of the climate crisis’ adverse effects.

However, if limiting global warming to 1.5 °C is to be achieved, governments, civil society and the private sector cannot operate alone, but will need to join forces in combating the climate emergency.

‘Closing the Ambition Cycle with Race to Zero in Brazil’ brought together leaders committed to net-zero emissions and promoted discussion on how cooperation could boost a more prosperous and carbon-free economy.

The role of companies and subnational governments ahead of the COP26 global climate agenda was discussed at the event last Wednesday, 4 August 2021, in Brasília. Discussions were attended by Alok Sharma, the president of COP26, Peter Wilson, the UK Ambassador to Brazil, Gonzalo Muñoz, leader of the Race to Zero Campaign and Climate Action of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, as well as by representatives of ICLEI South America.

Sharma highlighted Brazil’s fundamental role in COP26 and the importance of participation from its cities and states in Race to Zero – a global UN campaign that unites leaders from around the world who are committing to a green, resilient, carbon-free economic recovery and to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. “More than 100 companies, 12 cities, 4 states have already signed the commitment to Race to Zero in Brazil and, if you add the efforts of those who are committing today, that represents about 50 percent of all emissions in Brazil and 50 percent of the economy. This is absolutely huge and I commend you for it,” commented Sharma.

The event, which brought together ICLEI network cities and states, as well as governors, mayors and CEOs committing to Race to Zero, was organized by the British Embassy and Consulate in partnership with ICLEI, Global Compact Brazil, Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development (CEBDS), Ethos Institute, CDP, Centro Brasil no Clima, C40, ACA Brasil, Under2 Coalition, Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy and FGV EAESP.

122 Brazilian entities have joined the Race to Zero

Currently, Brazil has 122 actors committed to the movement. Among these, four states (São Paulo, Pernambuco, Amazonas and Minas Gerais) and 11 cities (Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, São Paulo, Curitiba, Belo Horizonte, Recife, Fortaleza, Niterói, São Leopoldo, Canoas and Serra Talhada) are part of the ICLEI Network.

During the event, several municipal authorities made commitments to Race to Zero and shared information on ambitious initiatives within their territories. Jairo Jorge, Mayor of Canoas (RS), drew attention to the importance of membership for Canoas: “Canoas already has a Greenhouse Effect Emission Inventory but, within the next 18 months, we want to develop a vulnerability and risk analysis as well as a Local Climate Action Plan that will involve society and our community. It is these measures that have to be translated into action so that we can reach carbon neutrality by 2050”, he highlighted.

Governor João Dória spoke of what he hopes to achieve on the way to COP26, including local initiatives and implementation of national government actions. He stated: “The state of São Paulo prioritizes the sustainable development agenda in all its policies. We create actions and initiatives that are aligned with global public policies to mitigate carbon emissions and protect the environment”.

Also present was the municipality of Niterói, who, with the country’s first municipal climate secretariat, is setting an ambitious track within the climate agenda. According to Mayor Axel Grael, “Niterói has developed many preventative measures to combat climate change, such as protecting urban forests. We are working to build climate awareness among Niterói’s citizens in a way that is inclusive and empowers everyone”.

“Today we are honored to be here representing the cities of Brazil and thinking about policies that will be essential for the future of our nation”, said Márcia Conrado, mayor of Serra Talhada.

The ceremony also celebrated the participation of more than 100 Brazilian companies and more than 3,000 firms globally in Race to Zero. The diversity of attendees – with CEOs and representatives from Movida, BRF, Azul SA, Ambev, Banco do Brasil, Malwee, Klabin, JBS and Natura – emphasized the breadth of sectors that have made climate commitments and reiterated the important role of the private sector in confronting the climate emergency.

On the way to COP26

COP26, considered the most important climate meeting since the Paris Agreement, will take place this November. Scheduled to be held in Glasgow (Scotland), under the presidency of the United Kingdom, the event will promote debates and decisive solutions for the future of our planet.

ICLEI is the organization that officially represents local governments at the COPs and acts as a focal point for Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) in the UNFCCC negotiation processes. It is also the spokesperson for more than 30 organizations that make up the Global Task Force of Local and Regional Governments (Global Task-Force for Local and Regional Governments).

To support the preparation of cities and governments for COP26, ‘Closing the Ambition Cycle with the Race to Zero in Brazil’ introduced important discussions that could serve as a warm-up for COP26.

Alok Sharma, COP26 President Designate, and Gonzalo Muñoz, High Level Climate Champion, opened the discussion on the role of companies and subnational governments in the global climate agenda on the way to COP26. They questioned how to leverage organizational and sectoral transformation in support of implementing net-zero commitments and socially and environmentally responsible performance in Brazil.

Brazil’s main challenges in reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 were presented and discussed, as well as which regulatory changes could accelerate the transition in each sector and which financing mechanisms – new or existing – could be improved upon.

Isabella de Roldão, Deputy Mayor of Recife, reiterated that, “the actions needed to combat climate change imply collective efforts”, emphasizing the importance of cooperation in rallying favor for a sustainable economy.

The planet and the voices of future generations

The views of young people on sustainable urban development must also be taken into account. Considering that young people will be responsible for actions and decision-making in the near future, discussing their role in leadership, science and public management is key.

Given this context, in the last leg of the event, the importance of ensuring a sustainable planet for today’s children and youth was emphasized.

“The reason we are doing this is for the environment, for the economy, for jobs, but we are also doing this for future generations. And this next decade will be decisive in relation to the actions that are being taken”, concluded Sharma.


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