Brazilian co-ops working to tackle climate change represented at COP26

The delegation presented case studies of co-ops such as cocoa producer Camta, which uses tech to avoid slash and burn agriculture

Brazil’s main co-op federation, OCB, took part in a COP26 side event on 12 November, to highlight the work of some co-operatives to tackle climate change.

The event was organised by Brazil’s government and featured environment minister Joaquim Alvaro Pereira Leite.

In recent weeks Brazil committed to cutting CO2 emissions in half by 2030, with a target to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and end illegal deforestation by 2028. These commitments were accompanied by a new policy to create green jobs and preserve the country’s forests announced days ahead of the COP26 summit.

Brazil’s emissions have risen in recent years due to a spike in illegal deforestation. According to data from the National Institute of Space Research, between August 2020 and July 2021 Brazil lost 4,200 square miles of its Amazon tree cover.

Brazil’s government, led by Jair Bolsonaro, has been subject of fierce criticism for its environmental policy. Mr Leite’s predecessor as environment minister, Ricardo Salle, quit the post in June amid an illegal logging investigation.

The commitment on deforestation has met a cautious welcome from environmentalists, with Prof Simon Lewis, an expert on climate and forests at University College London, telling the BBC: “It is good news to have a political commitment to end deforestation from so many countries” but warning that a similar declaration in 2014 in New York had “failed to slow deforestation at all”.

At COP26, Mr Leite praised co-ops for their contribution to tackling climate change and their role in bringing new opportunities to Amazon communities.

Fabiola Nader Motta, director of Institutional Relations at OCB, presented a series of case studies of co-ops fighting climate change, including Camta, an agricultural co-operative in the Amazon which produces 800 tonnes of cocoa every year.

“This co-op is a proof that sustainability and productivity can go hand in hand,” she said. “The co-op also protecting the Amazon forest.”

The members of the co-op use technology that allows production without slashing and burning. The story is replicated across the country by other co-ops, added Ms Nader Motta.

In accordance with federal law, landowners in the Amazon must maintain at least 80% of their farms as standing forests. The model could be replicated elsewhere, said Ms Nader Motta.

Another sector in which co-ops make a difference is renewable energy. Brazil’s electricity matrix has a renewable share of 80%, with hydroelectricity accounting for 65% of its electricity.

Since 2016, OCB has been working with DGRV in Germany to help set up citizen-led renewable energy co-op modelled on the German renewable energy co-ops. A total of 24 new renewable energy co-ops have been created through the partnership.

OCB is also training member agricultural co-ops to use manure for biomass energy production. The co-ops trained are now able to produce 50% of the energy they use.

COP26 Manifesto

In addition to presenting case studies of Brazilian co-ops, OCB launched a COP26 manifesto in which it shared the position of co-ops and called on world leaders to back co-operative solutions.

The manifesto argues that co-ops must contribute to developing public policies capable of promoting the necessary increase in Brazilian productivity, without giving up sustainability and environmental preservation.

It also expresses support carbon market regulation, fighting against illegal deforestation in the Amazon and other Brazilian biomes, and applying the current environmental and land-based legislation, with emphasis on Brazil’s new Forest Code.

Brazilian producers must respect conservation ranges ranging from 20% to 80% of their land, argues the manifesto, adding that this “should be seen as an example for all nations”.

The manifesto supports laws that encourage the adoption of measures to protect and preserve the environment while highlighting the importance of Brazilian food production to fight hunger and food security in the world.

It calls for public policies that encourage co-operatives as a sustainable productive arrangement. The country is home to 5,000 co-ops with 17 million members.

“Brazilian co-operatives take advantage of this letter to reaffirm their commitment to work for the construction of a better, fairer and more sustainable future for this and future generations. We are aware of the many challenges that we will have in the coming years, and we see in them the opportunity to build a better world, guided by the spirit of co-operation,” reads the manifesto.