By Marina Grossi, President, Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development

The need for rapid progress in the fight against climate change has never felt more urgent. Like much of the rest of the world, my home country of Brazil is experiencing both extreme heat — thermometers soaring far above normal spring temperatures toward 42ºC (almost 108ºF) — and extreme weather events. Heavy rains in the Southeast and South regions have caused more than 100 deaths over the past year, while in the North, in the hitherto humid Amazon biome, a severe drought has brought incalculable social and economic losses to 58 municipalities and around 500,000 people.

Over the next few years, Brazil has a major opportunity to change the narrative around climate for the better. In part, that is because we will host the 30th UN Conference of the Parties (COP) in the Amazonian city of Belém in 2025. But the deeper reason is this: As someone who has participated in climate COPs for almost 30 years, I believe we in Brazil are increasingly clear that two priorities must be tackled simultaneously to rebuild trust in our collective ability to stop the inexorable concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These are 1) the need to hold governments and others properly to account for the promises made at COP, and 2) the need to ensure that solving the climate crisis is done in ways that improve the quality of life for all people, especially the poorest and most marginalized.

There have been recent calls to restore trust in the COP process, because countries have tended to make commitments without providing details on how they will achieve them. The disappointing result of that approach was made clear this year by the first official Global Stocktake (GST), a periodic review mechanism agreed to by signatories to the 2015 Paris Agreement. The GST, which concluded recently at COP 28 in Dubai, found that governments' existing pledges will not only fail to prevent global temperatures from blowing past the Paris target of limiting warming to 1.5ºC by 2050, but also will likely put the world on track to warm by 2.5ºC.

Brazil, for instance, has strengthened its Nationally Determined Contribution this year by following the UN’s recommendation to start setting economy-wide goals. For 2025, we went from a 37 percent reduction in emissions (compared to 2005) to 48 percent, and for 2030 we went from a 50 percent reduction to 53 percent. We still need to do more work to provide an integrated vision of how existing mechanisms and policies will roll up to achieve the country's increased mitigation ambition.

What’s clear, however, is that setting economy-wide goals should take place in tandem with establishing more short- and medium-term decarbonization goals. In the absence of these, targets for the distant future, such as 2050, can easily present a misleadingly upbeat picture by ignoring the lack of a credible pathway to those goals and the likely cascading negative impact of inadequate action in the here and now. Declaring more interim goals for, say, 2027 or 2030 — doing at the national level something similar to what many companies have done in setting out their net-zero commitments — would help deter the kind of backsliding from pursuing long-term climate targets that all too often occurs when governments confront inevitable short-term crises.

The second key to restoring trust in the climate fight starts with understanding the process needs to do a much better job than it has traditionally done in putting people first.

We need a rapid transition to a new development model, one that combines progress on environmental goals with parallel progress on addressing social issues.

The Brazilian Amazon can be a hugely influential innovation sandbox for finding effective ways to do this. As the world’s largest tropical rain forest, it plays a widely recognized central role in the fight to prevent further climate change. Almost half of Brazil’s overall greenhouse gas emissions come from changes in land use, mainly through the persistent advance of deforestation.

The Amazon is also home to some 30 million people, equivalent to roughly half the population of the U.K. Most of them are concentrated in cities, rather than in riverside communities or on indigenous lands. Many are poor. With 1.3 million people, Belém ranks a lowly 56th among Brazilian cities in per capita income. It trails its peers in providing residents with universal access to basic services, such as clean water, sewage, electricity, education and connectivity.

What is urgently needed is a way to combat deforestation and sustain biodiversity, while addressing the pressing need to improve the lives of local citizens. So while, of course, there should be demanding targets and effective inspection and repression measures to contain the loss of forests, especially as a result of criminal activity, these must be introduced alongside a raft of policies that give locals an economic stake in forest preservation — recognizing that the standing forest has considerable economic value and that those living there have valuable knowledge about how to maintain and enhance the forest.

In short, Brazil has a great opportunity to demonstrate the potential of what are known as Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) – investments in maintaining and strengthening the existing ways in which the natural world underpins human economic development. While this potentially powerful approach is still mostly talk in many places, in Brazil it has moved to the forefront of our thinking and planning. Brazil alone accounts for approximately 20 percent of the (mostly still untapped) global potential to use NBS, with around two-thirds of this potential coming from conservation of natural forests.

It’s still early days, but we are already learning a great deal about what it will take to make NBS successful. Step one is to ensure the private sector moves hand-in-hand with governments and non-governmental organizations to create economic value from the socio-bio economy of the forest (including through innovative instruments for public- and private-sector financial investing, in so-called “nature markets”).

Such cooperation is at the heart of a “best practices” study that the Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development, the organization I head, launched in 2022. Further lessons emerged as we analyzed some 143 NBS initiatives in the Amazon, involving 53 different companies. All combined a resolute determination to combat illegal deforestation with development approaches that engaged local communities, valued biodiversity and channeled investment into advancing a circular, low-carbon economy.

A three-year-old partnership between a multinational tire manufacturer, NGOs operating in Brazil and abroad and a local government highlights how to generate employment and income from more sustainable production. This project aims to generate positive economic impact for 3,800 local families, while also preserving — through careful management — some 6.8 million hectares of Amazonian Forest. Initially the company agreed to buy just 700 tons of rubber produced, according to agreed social and environmental standards. As the program evolves and becomes fully integrated into the larger corporate supply chain, production is expected to expand sustainably.

Scaling NBS initiatives like this one will be essential to preserving the sprawling biodiversity of the Amazon and simultaneously meeting the needs of its human population.

Is it possible? We believe it is, especially as more and more companies adopt a multi-stakeholder approach to community development — one that includes nature, and the essential services it provides, as one of its key stakeholders.

The symbolism of hosting COP 30 in Belém can be powerful in focusing global attention on the possibilities for allying, protecting and regenerating nature with human development, rather than pitting them against each other.

As Brazil prepares for that event, our goal is to build a coalition of local and international businesses that can accelerate the development of NBS in the years ahead. Crucial to the success of this coalition is that it must include significant (potential and existing) providers of the investment capital needed, including firms and other institutions involved in international climate financing, prepared to defend and value the world’s two greatest sources of wealth: nature and people.

Only by focusing on both together will we be able to overcome the crisis of confidence that is holding back our progress in tackling the climate emergency, while preserving a planet that delivers the best possible living conditions for everyone.



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