Climate Change Challenges

Human activities such as energy generation and transportation emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are heating the planet.
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iCS’s vision: A prosperous, just Brazil that leads the transition to 1.5°C
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A better future depends basically on the choices made by society. iCS works for decisions to be made towards a prosperous, low-carbon development
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A stable climate sustains healthy ecosystems, economies, and societies

The stability of the climate we all depend on is at risk. Human activities such as energy generation and transportation (think smokestacks and tailpipes) emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are heating the planet. The graph below shows global annual average temperatures since 1880, and carbon dioxide concentration — largely the result of human activity — during the same period.


Climate change is already impacting ecosystems, economies, and the communities in which we live. We can still prevent the most negative impacts — but we must change course

iCS supports the international goal to prevent global average temperature increase from exceeding 1,5°C. While considered a “safe” limit, even at this level we can expect significant disruptions, such as melting of ice sheets, rising sea levels, more acidic oceans, and more frequent extreme weather events. These shocks affect water supply and food production, unsettle communities, and harm economic activity. The poorest communities are often the most vulnerable. The following table illustrates some of the impacts of rising global average temperatures.

Climate change is caused by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions — a global and multifaceted problem.

Curbing climate change depends on our ability to reduce global emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. However, these emissions — largely products of fossil fuel use — are deeply embedded in the infrastructure, economic systems, and social fabric of the world’s communities and in the high standard of living that much of the world enjoys today. Building a prosperous low-carbon world — the key to mitigating the worst impacts of climate change — requires global and systemic transformations. The following graph illustrates the share of greenhouse gases produced in different sectors and regions, and illustrates the global nature of the challenge.


As we seek to curb greenhouse gas emissions, we have a responsibility to increase access to energy

Access to energy is a fundamental condition of human and economic development. Lack of access too often deprives communities of other economic and social benefits. Currently, 1.2 billion people still don’t have electricity. Another 2.8 billion rely on health-harming fuels to cook and to heat their homes and cities. Societies must address energy poverty and climate change in concert. As vital efforts are made to reduce global poverty, we must maximize the energy that comes from sustainable and affordable low-carbon sources.


There is time to act!

We can prevent the most disruptive consequences of climate change if we act with urgency and determination to transform the practices that drive greenhouse gas emissions. While we understand the sources of those emissions, we also know that there is no silver bullet to curtail them. As modeled in the scenario below, the world’s ability to prevent average global temperatures from rising more than 1,5°C will require action, innovation, and transformation in every sector. More political will, faster innovation, and the cultivation of natural carbon sinks can further close the gap between our current trajectory and limiting global average temperature increase to 2°C.


The keys to unlocking a low-carbon future: effective public policy, business innovation, public support

Change at the speed and scale required will take political will, economic transformation, and public support. Determined government action — locally, nationally, and globally — is central to these efforts. Public policy shapes markets and industries by creating standards, norms, incentives, and investment opportunities. Business innovation creates new products, processes, and markets; drives consumer expectations; and paves the way for further advances. The following graphic shows how rapidly wind and solar energy investments and capacity have grown in the past decade. This growth is supported by a virtuous cycle that includes adoption of supportive policies, the growth of renewable energy investments, and consumer adoption of new technologies and practices.


Philanthropy has a critical role to play in the transition to a prosperous, low-carbon world.

Philanthropy has already made significant contributions in the drive to prevent dangerous climate change – supporting research and analysis, educating stakeholders and policymakers, building greater awareness in the general public, and mobilizing critical constituencies for action. But it’s not enough. The world is not yet on track to solve the climate crisis. The severity of this challenge, and the fact that climate change compromises progress toward other philanthropic goals such as poverty reduction and better public health, calls for philanthropy to do more. And yet, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions receive a small portion of total philanthropic spending in the U.S. and globally. Philanthropy can make a difference: more resources, smart investments, and greater collaboration will help accelerate change and strengthen our collective efforts to solve the climate crisis and ensure a prosperous future.


Texts and graphics dapted from


GHG Emission estimation from 1970-2014 allocated to the Brazilian states

Brazil seems to have already peaked its total GHG emissions, but non-forest related emissions continue to increase rapidly

Differently from China, India, Mexico, and most other developing countries, Brazil has already peaked its GHG emissions in 2004, after which its emissions diminished mainly because of reductions in land use (deforestation). However, Emissions from Energy and Agriculture have increased constantly since 1990.

Our biggest task now is ensuring that Brazil continues the trajectory of decreasing emissions. Therefore, we do not only need to ensure that deforestation will continue to decline but above all that our energy matrix will not be based on fossil fuels.


We need new approaches to tackle future emissions as Brazil´s emissions profile is changing

Despite the historical role of Land Use Change (causing deforestation) as the key source of carbon emissions in Brazil, recent trends and future scenarios show that it is the growing Energy sector that is mainly threatening Brazil´s low carbon future.


Consequently, in order to ensure Brazil´s low carbon future, it is vital to work on energy related issues, as this sector is the engine of the country´s development as well as of what will determine our pattern of production and consumption in the future.

Brazil´s energy sector is rapidly becoming fossil fuel dependent, led by growth in the power sector


In 2014, the energy sector was responsible for one third of the Brazilian GEE emissions. When observed for the different activities, transport has the biggest emission share with 46% in 2014 (the percentage was 38% in 1990). The power sector, although contributing less in total, experienced the largest growth during the 14 years analyzed, increasing fivefold from 3% in 1990 to 15% in 2014.

It becomes clear that within the energy sector, the activity of transport (cargo and passengers) and the electricity/power sector are the two key areas that need to be prioritized.

Emissions from transport are growing very quickly, 50% being related to passenger transportation

The means of transport that mainly contribute to energy emissions are trucks and automobiles. Together, they represent about 70% of transport-related emissions in 1990 and 2014. While cargo transportation is vital and will therefore be tackled in the near future, individual motorized transportation is the area that has increased most from 24% to 31% over 24 years. Taking advantage of the recent political momentum and the mobilization of key actors in cities, including youth movements and other civil society actors, the area of public mobility must be prioritized urgently.


Brazil can be a global leader in low carbon development but needs new approaches

The evolution of the Brazilian GHG emissions in relation to the dynamic of global emissions can be divided in four phases. Between 1990 and 1997, Brazilian emissions grew faster than the world average. Between 1998 and 2004 the growth rate was similar and after 2005, Brazilian emissions decreased while global emissions kept growing. Since 2009, Brazilian emissions have stabilized, in contrast to growing global emissions. As the emissions profile is changing, new approaches are required.


Brazil is at a crossroad and needs to choose its development path

Brazil is at a crossroad between locking itself into a carbon intensive future or following a low carbon development path. There are different possible scenarios for Brazil´s future emissions.

  • Scenario Government: According to IES (Project “Economic and Social Implications” coordinated by the Brazilian Forum on Climate Change), if business as usual prevails in Brazil, emissions will rise from 2020 on, mainly due to economic growth based on fossil fuels energy options and agriculture. The baseline scenario used was developed by the National Plan on Energy (PNE) 2050, the most long-term government plan available.
  • Scenario Additional Mitigation 1: IES concluded that low cost mitigation measures, up to 20 US$ per ton CO2e, could already result in a significant level of additional mitigation in relation to current governmental efforts.
  • Scenario Additional Mitigation 2: If other measures are made viable, with a cost of 100 US$ per ton CO2e, it would be possible to reach an even more ambitious level of mitigation by 2030.
  • Scenario Carbon Neutrality in 2050: The Climate Observatory indicates policies and measures that would allow Brazil to reach the ambitious objective of one billion tons of carbon in 2030, with the long-term perspective of a carbon neutral Brazil in 2050.

Climate Policies in Brazil need to be more ambitious and consistent

Climate and energy policy and planning processes need to be more thoroughly integrated by all government departments and economic sectors. In the energy sector, this implies acknowledging that due to the carbon budget planning processes, such as the National Energy Plan and the Ten -Year Energy Expansion Plan, Brazil cannot continue to focus on fossil fuels. In the context of climate policy, it includes setting ambitious and feasible GHG mitigation and adaptation plans that consider the full range of legal and economic instruments and beneficial abatement potential in the energy sector. Confronting the need to reconcile energy and climate priorities is the first step in mustering the political will and ingenuity necessary to overcome the barriers to the low carbon pathway.

In September 2015, Brazil announced its Intended National Contribution (INDC) to the UNFCCC that contained the following target emissions reduction:


While this is an important step forward, we need to be much more ambitious in guaranteeing our goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Further work will be required to ensure that the target of the INDC is not only delivered, but also exceeded, and that improvements in other areas – including energy efficiency and transport – are prioritized in Brazil’s climate plans and implemented.