In a whirlwind journey to meet with her counterpart Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany cemented an important climate link between the largest economies in Europe and Latin America this week. Their national ties go back centuries to the first German immigration to Brazil about 200 years ago and the German companies who invested there beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. Thursday was their first recent bilateral meeting since Germany included Brazil among its high-level relationships in the emerging world, which only involved India and China previously.
Merkel brought with her about half her cabinet, seven ministers and five secretaries of state, for the power meeting. The leaders first announced the intended trip in February. They also met in Brussels after the G7 meeting at Schloss Elmau in June. Each is currently facing challenges within her own nation. Anti-government sentiment currently abounds in Brazil, where some have called for Rousseff to resign, and Merkel’s perspective on bailing out Greece has not gone over well with some of her countrymen.
Merkel brought the good news that Germany, Brazil’s fourth-largest trade partner, will lend over half a million dollars (550 million euros) in financing for two environmental initiatives in Brazil: development of renewable energy sources and preservation of tropical forests. This financial settlement is about triple what was expected. Wind energy is on an especially steep climb in Brazil, and the country has 14GW of solar projects under development. Germany will also help the Latin American nation, once its largest trading partner in the Americas and now #2 after Mexico, set up a rural land registry to monitor deforestation.
The two leaders released a joint statement on climate change. They voiced strong support for the Paris climate change summit this December, which aims for international agreement to limit global warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), or lower, above preindustrial levels. The leaders pledged bilateral cooperation between Brazil and Germany to reach that goal.
Germany expects Rousseff to strengthen its commitment to “ambitious targets,” and Rousseff has reiterated the need for developed countries like Germany to help least developed countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. The nations also discussed Internet issues and made progress in speeding up a tardy EU-Mercosur free trade agreement. (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela are full members of Mercosur.)
Rousseff presented Brazil’s ambitious investment plan for infrastructure, inviting German companies to invest in the nation’s roads, ports, railroads, and airports. Brazil has a reputation for government bureaucracy and red tape, so Rousseff’s comment to the German business daily Handelsblatt that her nation was working on automatic approval for applications taking too much time in the approval process was a welcome step.
Says Jennifer Morgan, Global Director of the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute:
“The leaders of Brazil and Germany stood up for the cornerstones of an ambitious climate agreement in Paris. It’s telling that two countries with very different economies view a goal of decarbonizing the global economy, in an equitable manner, as desirable and achievable. Their shared vision that the Paris agreement should ensure countries deliver more ambitious actions over time sends a powerful signal to the international community.”
The agreement also involves concordance on deforestation, one of Brazil’s leading sources of emissions. During the past 40 years, close to 20% of the Amazon rain forest–two-thirds of which is in Brazil–has been cut down—more deforestation than in the previous 450 years, when European colonization began. With Nigeria and Indonesia, Brazil has one of the top three highest national rates of deforestation. The South American nation is beginning to turn this trend around.
Nigel Sizer, WRI’s forest program director, comments on this aspect of the agreement:
“Brazil has already made excellent progress by dramatically slowing deforestation and protecting land in the Amazon region. Brazil’s commitment to restore 12 million hectares of forests by 2030 [reducing deforestation to zero] will also help reduce emissions and generate economic opportunities. It will be important for Brazil to follow through on these commitments, including open and transparent monitoring of progress. Brazil has the opportunity to go even further, including in other sectors, in its national commitments to the climate agreement.”
Morgan adds, “The world will be watching to see if Brazil’s soon-to-be-released national climate plan [INDC] lives up to these encouraging principles.”