It may seem counterintuitive, but it makes sense for Brazil to seriously explore opportunities in the areas of sustainability and climate change with China, the world champion in CO₂ emissions.
New possibilities open up now that the issue will once again be a priority and that Brasilia’s goodwill towards Beijing will increase. It makes perfect sense to cooperate with others as well, but this is less surprising.
In recent years, moreover, while deniers paid no attention, a lot has happened in China in terms of sustainability. Beijing has made international decarbonization commitments.
Green technologies have spread rapidly, including in the areas of solar, wind and electric vehicles. Green finance funds have multiplied. In Shanghai, the world’s largest carbon market went live. In Kuqa, the largest green hydrogen plant on the planet is being built.
China wants to be at the forefront of the transition to a low-carbon economy, which is not trivial given its high dependence on coal. In addition, the increase in fossil fuel production in the country is bad news, motivated by energy security. But anyone who thinks that China’s decarbonization is just talk is wrong.
Sustainability and technology must serve to update and dynamize the bilateral relationship — and these agendas complement the already consolidated fronts of trade and investment. In the Brazil-China relationship, the vision of the future needs to focus on topics such as low-carbon agriculture, green finance, sustainable mobility, agricultural biotechnology, renewable energies, smart cities, in addition to agriculture and industry 4.0.
Chinese investments in Brazil, for example, can help scale up existing initiatives in the country in the area of low-carbon agriculture. A bilateral climate agreement for trading carbon credits, as a study by the Brazil-China Business Council suggests, could offset China’s CO₂ emissions in projects in Brazil, which would be viable with a much lower amount of emissions.
Closer dialogue not only —but also — with China is fundamental in international forums, including climate COPs, such as the one that is now starting in Egypt, in addition to the G20 and BRICS.
Still, the dialogue with Beijing is interesting in the face of new trade barriers, such as those emerging in the European Union. If Brazil is the preferred target of one of the proposals – with an environmental guise, with the potential to harm 78% of Brazilian agro exports to the bloc –, China is the natural focus of another European initiative that proposes a carbon tax on imports. . Trade and climate are certainly related, but the arbitrariness of these new barriers is worrying.
Furthermore, digitalization and sustainability must be the basis of a new competitiveness policy for Brazilian industry. In the relationship with the Asian country, the challenge is to leverage Chinese investments and technologies to help reinvigorate industrial activity.
If, in terms of trade, Chinese imports pose an obvious challenge to the industry in Brazil (and the world), expanding the agenda — with an emphasis on investments, technology, sustainability and infrastructure — could generate gains for the industrial sector itself.
It is worth remembering that, in the distant past of 1988, Brazil and China established a joint program for the construction of advanced remote sensing satellites, CBERS. Even today, images generated by these satellites contribute to the monitoring of deforestation and fires, the control of water resources and agricultural areas in both countries.
Even in the face of a more tense international context, it should not be impossible to expand the scope and ambition of joint initiatives, in line with a new vision of the future for Brazil-China relations and, by the way, for Brazil’s role in the world.