Brazil’s Senate takes inspiration from Papal encyclical

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Brazil’s Senate takes inspiration from Papal encyclical


How much longer will we wait to understand that life on planet Earth is at risk? The scientists who are part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have already adopted the word “risk” in an attempt to better convey the consequences of climate change for life on the planet. American president Barack Obama has stated that our generation is the first to feel the effects of climate change and the last one capable of doing something.

It is clear that the production and consumption model as well as the relationship between man and nature that are in place today are unsustainable. Water and food are scarce for billions of people. If we wanted to provide all those who are in need with the standard that a minority has achieved, the world would not exist.

I do not know if we are living a civlisationary crisis. Terrorist activity, the refugee drama, conflicts using religion as a background, inequality among continents, countries and people, intolerance and hatred indicate that we face great challenges. In a world of few leaderships, Pope Francis, with his activism and brave stances, has brought us hope that it is possible to find a path to sustainable life on the planet.

His latest great contribution is the Laudato Sì encyclical published in May 2015. Addressing with much realism the problems we face, this extraordinary document indicates with optimism what we can and should do.

Soon after the papal encyclical was published, we held an event at the Brazilian Federal Senate to debate this important document. We had the participation of Justice Herman Benjamin of the country’s High Court of Justice, a committed jurist and one of the greatest specialists in environmental legislation in Brazil; of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB); and of Washington Novaes, a journalist who is a respected figure in the Brazilian media on environmental issues.

We are confident that the Papal encyclical, Laudato Sì is a fundamental calling for the adoption of concrete and pragmatic attitudes not only by over 1 billion Catholics of the world, but by all inhabitants of the planet as well.

In my country, we understand that this publication - more than a document drafted with a solid scientific basis - is an important moral and spiritual reference for policies against climate change, that stimulate a more sustainable and inclusive development.

In the hope of having a new environmental agreement, which may succeed and exceed the Kyoto Protocol, the Laudato Sì is providential. It outlines a systemic view and brings forth considerations about the so called “integral ecology” which - as defended by the Pope - starts with the recognition that humanity today faces an existential crisis on multiple fronts: economic disparity, competition for resources, degradation of the natural world, bankrupt nations.
In the document, Pope Francis reiterates the position of the IPCC report in one of his most important conclusions: that environmental degradation, human degradation, risks of climate change and instability of the planet derive from human action.

Even so, a dangerous vision still prevails that we have other more urgent matters to attend to, such as the economy. We cannot accept that some would try to postpone taking stances relative to emissions, considering the resulting change in the planet’s climate. This must be the priority!

Brazil is the G-1 of biodiversity. We have 20% of the world’s animal and vegetable species, 12% of its fresh water and one of the most extensive agricultural regions on the planet. In previous years, we have experienced extraordinary achievements in our country. We had economic growth - a GDP that went from US$ 500 billion to US$ 2.3 trillion. A reduction in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon of 80%, and the social inclusion of over 40 million people. All of this resulted from good public policies.

We are also pioneers in the search for the substitution of fossil fuels and have an enviable energy mix. Currently, 76% of our energy mix consists of renewable energy. Now, with the world trying to establish emission limits to keep the temperature from rising above 2 degrees Celsius, Brazil presents a daring proposal of emissions reduction.

Among the main objectives of Brazil’s Intended Determined National Contribution (INDC) for COP-21, the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 37% by 2025 in comparison to 2005, is one that stands out. Another goal is the 43% reduction of carbon emissions by 2030. Brazil will also make efforts to end illegal deforestation, to reforest 12 million hectares, to recover 15 million hectares of degraded pasture fields and to integrate five million hectares of plantations, cattle farms and forests.

I emphasize that, unlike other countries, the Brazilian goal is stated in absolute numbers. So, Brazil is making its contribution to the environment. As Pope Francis´ green encyclical proposes, in order to overcome the challenges of the 21st century, there must be “one world with a common plan". The document outlines many lines of actions, for instance, the necessity of a new global arrangement of environmental governance.

The Pope calls to all individuals to have a new stance, a new comprehension, a new relationship with the environment and with others, abandoning this dominant depredation culture, of a disposable mindset and of consumerism.

At the international level, as we move towards COP 21, I am convinced that Laudato Sì has arrived in time to contribute for the advancement of environmental debates, in Brazil as well as in the world.

Inspired by Pope Francis’ example, I am confident that world leaders will also present their green commitments. As United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, has said: “We do not have a ‘Plan B’ because we do not have a ‘Planet B’.” The moment to decide is now!

Senator Jorge Viana is Vice-president of the Brazilian Senate and a former Governor of the State of Acre, Brazil

NB.: Both Senator Viana and Justice Antonio Hernan Benjamin will be speaking at GLOBE’s COP21 Legislators Summit in Paris on 4th December 2015