The temperature increases

Image: Elyeser Szturm


The contradictions between the reality of the acts and the declared intention of governments to encourage the use of energy sources that are less polluting than fossil fuels

As it approaches 28a. Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP28, which will take place from November 30 to December 12 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates) the contradictions between the reality of the acts and the intention declared by governments become more evident to encourage the use of energy sources that are less polluting than fossil fuels.

To demand real and immediate solutions, the global climate justice organization, 350 organizations and other civil society entities will carry out street protests across the planet on the 3rd and 4th of November to remind rich countries of their responsibility to take immediate action towards of a less polluting energy matrix.

For example, the Brazilian government, which always highlights the need to move away from the fossil generation, has in practice taken controversial positions. For example, in 2022, according to the National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel), it spent almost R$12 billion in subsidies for thermoelectric plants powered by natural gas, allocated through the Energy Development Account (CDE).

An additional R$1 billion in subsidies went to thermal power plants powered by mineral coal – the burning of which is considered – by far – the energy source that emits the most greenhouse gases.

In fact, these coal subsidies increased by 21% compared to the R$750 million disbursed in 2021, when public spending on these polluting sources had already grown by 12% over 2020. The two successive increases reversed a decline that was being observed in the previous five years of coal use. This source accounts for just 1,3% of Brazilian energy generation.

All fossil sources combined – also including natural gas and oil – garnered almost R$2021 billion in government subsidies in 120, according to a study by the Institute of Socioeconomic Studies (INESC), published in November 2022.

Among the subsidies calculated by INESC are the compulsory contracting of thermoelectric generation and small hydroelectric plants (R$55 billion), emergency auction contracting (R$40 billion), and the CDE (close to R$35 billion).

The contradiction between official discourse and practice is so great that it even affects the government internally. In 2020, the Executive published the “Program for the sustainable use of mineral coal” and made no move to veto a rule issued by the Legislature that introduced, that same year, coal subsidies into the privatization process of the former state holding. of Eletrobrás energy. However, this was not the position of the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES), belonging to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, which decided to no longer finance the construction of new coal-fired thermal plants.

The worst thing is that the continuity of subsidies should make it difficult to invest in so-called renewables, such as solar and wind, and in green hydrogen, according to market voices heard by the EPBR agency, specializing in energy news.

They indicate that it is necessary to review fossil subsidies and allocate them to, for example, making green hydrogen – one of the main alternatives to fossils – competitive. Free to be beneficially applied, this volume of resources would also be sufficient to encourage the decarbonization of Brazilian industry. But there is no indication that the contradiction will be revised in the short term. On the contrary.

Released in October, a survey by IEMA – Institute of Energy and Environment observed that there was a marked increase in biomass, wind and solar sources in the energy matrix – which would indicate a decrease in the volume of gases emitted.

But, also according to IEMA, there was a simultaneous “expansion in the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity. Even though, in 2022, this generation fell by around 49% compared to 2021, mainly due to the recovery of hydroelectric reservoirs, the production of electrical energy by fossil thermoelectric plants went from 35 TWh in 2002 to almost 69 TWh in 2022 , practically doubling.”

Instead of learning from the reality that knocks on our door – the historic drought in the Amazon region and the record increase in the Earth's temperature in 2022, of 1,15 oC above the levels seen before the Industrial Revolution – governments, especially those in the largest economies, and other market agents, who induce the production and consumption of fuels, insist on the vision that ends up leading us to an uncertain future for the planet and the human species.

Which future we will arrive at, there is no way of knowing.

*Ilan Zugman has a master's degree in environmental management and director of in Latin America.

*Carlos Tautz is a journalist and doctoral candidate in history at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).

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