The IPCC report

Image: Aleksandar Pasaric


Both economic policies and business decisions must be guided by a central question: how will this impact the relationship between society and nature, and especially climate change?

Nothing indicates that the most important decision makers on the planet are prepared to face the horizon outlined by the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (IPCC), which analyzes the evolution and prospects of the relationship between human societies and the climate system on which life on Earth depends. One of the most important and promising conclusions of the report is that there is still a narrow window of opportunity for the average global temperature not to rise above 1,5°C by the end of the century.

But this window becomes an almost invisible crack when the most important economic newspaper in the world, the Financial Times, portrays the enthusiasm of Jan Jenisch, president of the largest cement producer group in the world (Holcin), with what he calls the construction boom, due to the infrastructure needs of developing countries. His joy is shared by Fernando Gonzales, the CEO of Mexican Cemex who talks about the construction supercycle.

The curious thing is that the information from the Financial Times appears in a podcast of the newspaper, right before a comment about the floods in Germany and China and the breaking of the record of temperature increase in North America, without making any relation between cement and extreme weather events. Well, if it were a country, the cement sector would be the third largest global emitter. And it cannot be said that the sector is not aware of its impacts on the climate system.

In 2021, each ton of cement will be produced with emissions 18% lower than three decades before, shows work by CarbonBrief. During this period, however, the demand for cement in the world tripled. The result is that, despite the sector's technological advances, its emissions continue to rise.

O recent report The joint venture of the International Energy Agency and the Global Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) corroborates this information. By 2050, global cement production is expected to increase by 12%, but its emissions will grow by “only” 4%. The IPCC report released this week makes this undeniable achievement (emitting less per unit produced) tragically become a decisive component of the climate crisis.

Cement is taken here as an example that affects economic life as a whole. The data of United Nations International Resource Panel are clear in this regard: emissions from material production (metals, wood, construction and plastic, not including fossil fuels and food) doubled between 1995 and 2016, rising from 15% to 23% of global emissions. And, as with cement, the technical advances to decarbonize the supply of iron, steel, plastic and rubber have been immense.

If we add to this picture the plans to expand the production of oil and even coal and emissions derived from agriculture worldwide, the conclusion is that both business strategies and government plans to combat the climate crisis fall far short of the urgency posed by the IPCC report. This explains the statement that Christiana Figueres, who directed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and was one of those responsible for the 2015 Paris Agreement, in an interview after the release of the IPCC report: “We are not up to the challenge of our time… We are still promoting improvements marginalized and the times call for drastic change”.

The IPCC report will have achieved the goal of triggering this drastic change under two conditions. The first is that every citizen and every consumer face the contemporary climate crisis with the seriousness and urgency that the pandemic faced. It is essential that the economy provides well-being, comfort and conditions for people and their communities to flourish, but if we are not able to make choices guided by the messages that the IPCC is transmitting to us, the result is that there will simply be no future.

In this sense, tackling the climate crisis consists, above all, in combating inequalities, that is, in using the resources at our disposal under the gandhian orientation that the world is capable of satisfying human needs, but not luxury, waste and greed. Our well-being must increasingly depend on common goods, solidarity, a sense of community, empathy and social cooperation.

This collective dimension of well-being is based on the link between combating the climate crisis and democratic sentiment. Societies that cultivate individualism and the idea that social ascension is an effort that depends strictly on people and not on their community relationships will hardly be able to face the climate crisis.

The second condition for us to approach what Cristiana Figueres called “drastic change” is that both economic policies and business decisions start to be guided by a central question: how will this impact the relationship between society and nature and, especially , climate change? The current urgency no longer allows this issue to be seen as “external” to economic life, as a kind of unanticipated, unforeseen consequence of our activities that will be corrected at some point. The fight against the climate crisis has to be at the heart of public and private economic management.

European Union, China, United States, Japan, India and numerous business organizations are showing clear signs that they are at least starting to take measures in this direction. The distance between this agenda and that of the fundamentalist fanatics who are at the Planalto Palace and at the Esplanada dos Ministérios could not be greater. At the center of the struggle to overcome the threats that weigh on Brazilian democracy now and next year is the radical change that Cristiana Figueres advocates and that demands an economic life that regenerates the social and natural fabrics that until now have systematically accompanied our offer. of goods and services.

*Ricardo Abramovay is a senior professor at the Institute of Energy and Environment at USP. Author, among other books, of Amazon: towards an economy based on the knowledge of nature (Elephant/Third Way).




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