Challenges and

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
describes how sustainable development can protect the environment and generate jobs and income for the poor in urban and rural areas

Although Brazil is known worldwide for its great forest and water resources, it has now become largely urbanized. Eighty-two per cent of its 183 million inhabitants live in urban zones, mainly in metropolitan areas and cities with over 100,000 people. This urban agglomeration results from industrialization and accelerated growth that took off in the 20th century and resulted in major income concentration and social exclusion. The cities reproduced this economic model, concentrating large amounts of public resources into affluent areas while at the same time not providing adequate infrastructure and living conditions for less prosperous neighborhoods.

Brazil does not offer housing to at least 6.6 million of its low-income population. Nearly 30 million people do not have access to drinking water. Half the urban housing is not connected to a sewerage system, and only 10 per cent of the sewage is treated. There is, therefore, a close link between social exclusion and environmental degradation. The poor are the major victims of urban environmental problems. In view of the heightened awareness of the emerging threat of environmental degradation, it is now understood that poor populations in coastal zones are especially vulnerable to the impact of global warming on ecosystems and sea level rise.

In the first two years of our Government, we set out to meet the challenge of promoting economic growth with income distribution, achieving rapid industrial growth while at the same time generating employment and improving workers' incomes.

However, it is time to take on board the wider meaning of sustainability which covers not only economic and social dimensions but environmental aspects as well. In Brazil, dealing with the so-called social deficit implies not only fighting hunger and poverty ˝ a major focus of my Government and one of the Millennium Development Goals. It also requires reducing social inequality through the ýright to cityţ, which stands for adequate living conditions, sanitation, transport, and other urban services. Improving the urban milieu will surely improve environmental conditions, especially as concerns water resources.

This is a major challenge. The investments needed to make basic sanitation universally available are estimated at US$ 2.5 billion a year for the next twenty years. On-going negotiations with the International Monetary Fund aim to reclassify resources devoted to sanitation as investment for the purpose of estimating the primary deficit in national accounts. This initiative reflects our understanding that making full use of these resources is crucial to the country’s social and environmental development and to enhancing economic growth.

Yet sustainable development requires more. When I invited Senator Marina Silva to become my Minister for the Environment we accepted the challenge of putting environmental issues at the center of government policy. This is no simple task: it requires fostering economic growth without ignoring social and environmental issues. Clearly one cannot disassociate industrial and agricultural development policies from questions of social inclusion and environmental preservation. These different dimensions form a whole, generating mutually reinforcing outcomes, results and impacts.

Renewable energy
Electricity provides a good example: increasing industrial production requires higher energy consumption. Brazil is widely known for its high level of renewable energy use: 85 per cent of its installed capacity is hydroelectric in origin. Bringing on stream new units has social and environmental implications that can and must be minimized. The Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry of Mines and Energy are jointly implementing new planning measures geared to reducing damaging environmental effects and human displacement. This involves a strategically integrated approach to water basins and their multiple uses. Two other programs focus on reducing energy wastage by rationalizing industrial production processes, curtailing consumer demand and providing incentives for research into novel energy sources, such as solar and wind power.

The National Water Resources Plan ˝ recently discussed at UNEP’s Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Nairobi ˝ is relevant here. Brazil has developed legislation concerning Water Resources Policy and set up the National Water Agency, which encourages the establishment of water basin committees. These committees regulate conditions for water use, sanitation programs and basin recovery measures.
We are determined to combat burning and deforestation in the Amazon
The crosscutting theme of environmental sustainability is also relevant to Brazil’s expanding agricultural frontier vis-à-vis the need to preserve our forests. Global concern with climate change underscores the interdependence between environmental and development issues, which involve all countries, as well as urban and rural areas and natural resources. As a signatory of and key actor in negotiating the Kyoto Protocol (although not included in the annex I list of countries with reduction targets) Brazil believes public policies should aim to reduce harmful atmospheric emissions.

We are determined to combat burning and deforestation in the Amazon. Government initiatives covered in the “Sustainable Amazon Plan” include sustainable development for the area surrounding the BR-163 highway and the Illegal Deforestation Prevention and Control Action Plan for the Amazon. As a result of federal monitoring and control, deforestation indexes between 2002 and 2003 have stabilized. Although present levels remain unsatisfactory, they do bear witness to the Government’s endeavors.

Safe control
The recent murder of Sister Dorothy in an Amazonian agricultural settlement highlights the conflict between land-grabbing groups that settled along the agricultural frontier by burning down forestland where state control is weak, and local settlements that practise novel government-sponsored forms of sustainable occupation. This new approach symbolizes a determination to put into practice policies protecting the environment and fostering sustainable production. The assassination gave added impetus to ongoing initiatives which include the creation of an inter-ministerial taskforce to reinforce the Deforestation Combat Program. I hope to make this task force permanent and thus reinforce the state’s presence through greater police action, land regulation and encouragement for sustainable production. Since 2003, 7 million hectares – 23 per cent of all extant conservation areas – have come under protection in the Amazon region.

To return to climate change – and therefore to global environmental issues – Brazil pioneered ethanol fuel (derived from sugar-cane). This renewable energy source replaces petroleum-derived fuels, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Many vehicles in Brazil run exclusively on ethanol while the remainder run on a mixture that is 25 per cent ethanol. Recently 'bi-fuel' cars have come on the market. Because they run on any combination of gas and ethanol, an added impulse has been given to the country’s ethanol industry.

Furthermore, we recently launched the National Biodiesel Production Program, which adds two per cent of a vegetable-derived diesel fuel to normal diesel. This percentage is set to rise over the coming years and thus foster the output of castor oil and palm oil by mostly low-income populations in the North and Northeast of Brazil. This will be one more effort to link environmental protection to issues of development, job creation and better income for poor people.

I am convinced that these programs and technologies can be adopted both in developed countries, by substituting these new fuels for fossil fuel consumption, and in poorer countries, by producing these renewable fuels themselves and thus helping to better distribute income worldwide. This is Brazil’s contribution to bringing about change in the global production and consumption matrix.

Clearly, sustainable development is not just a challenge, but rather an opportunity for the Brazilian Government and society. It is challenging because it requires profound change in the socially unfair economic growth models and patterns of the past and present. It also demands a new awareness on the part of governments, entrepreneurs and society as a whole. It offers the opportunity to develop wide-ranging initiatives as well as novel technological patterns of production and distribution. Finally, within a “democratic sustainability” approach, all stake-holders should be invited to take an active interest in these new processes. Clean production methods, environmental education together with increased local Agenda 21 initiatives are essential to achieving these goals and improving the living conditions in our cities and our planet

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is President of Brazil.

PHOTOGRAPH: Jaques Jangoux/Still Pictures

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Challenges and Opportunity | Bridging the Water Gap | Golden Gateway to Green Cities | The Spirit of “Mottai Nai” | Cities without Slums | People | Rapid Progress | At a glance: Greening Cities | Charging into the Future | Star profile: Tokiko Kato | The Female Factor | Unlocking People Energy | Think Local | High Achievements | Life at the Top | Books and products | Focus On Your World | Black Sea, Green City?

Complementary issues:
Eveline Herfkens: Washing away poverty (Water, Sanitation, People) 2000
Marina Silva: Unprecedented opportunity (Women, Health and the Environment) 2000