Stakeholder Workshop: Decarbonization in Brazil and Latin America-Opportunities and Challenges March 29-30, 2023

On March 29 – 30, 2023, a Stakeholder Dialogue was held in the Serrambi Resort, near the city of Recife, Brazil. The aim of the meeting was to present and discuss results from the ENGAGE project with key stakeholders from Brazil and Latin America. The meeting was attended by 28 stakeholders and 27 ENGAGE project members. 

In the first session of the meeting, Roberto Schaeffer (COPPE) presented results from the COFFEE- TEA modelling framework, which show that Latin America becomes net zero roughly 10 years before the rest of the world. A particularly interesting result is that biomass is especially important for transport and industry, with the transport sector relying on biofuels for up to 60% of its final energy. This contrasts with the electrification observed in other regions (e.g., China, Europe, US). The model results also show that when different burden-sharing schemes to allocate the remaining carbon budget for limiting global average temperature increase are explored, Brazil reaches net zero up to 20 years later than when following a global least-cost approach.  

Group discussions after this presentation focussed on Latin American perspectives regarding the future of fossil fuels, poverty alleviation, economic development priorities, the energy transition and R&D, and land use and deforestation. These discussions highlighted the diversity of the region and the inequality within it leading to the need for a just transition of the energy system; the importance of fiscal revenues for many countries; and the potential for stranded assets. Financing was seen as a crucial element, with many opportunities for investing in infrastructure and new technologies in developing countries. The dependence of the poorest on fossil fuels, while being most vulnerable to climate impacts, is another significant challenge in the region. Cultural aspects and a “development first, pay later” paradigm were mentioned as factors constraining individual change. To address deforestation, particularly in Brazil where land-grabbing is responsible for some 70-80% of total forests lost, participants suggested strong government regulations and financial incentives, such as carbon markets and taxes, as well as the use of new techniques in the agricultural sector. 

The first day of the meeting ended with a survey administered by Elina Brutschin (IIASA) to gauge stakeholders’ preferences for particular scenarios, as part of work on just transitions. This was followed by a presentation by Ed Byers (IIASA) of the work on the Climate Solutions Explorer (CSE) being carried out by the ENGAGE project ( A poster session then provided participants with the opportunity to discuss a variety of work carried out within the ENGAGE project and was closed with a facilitated reflection on the discussions on the first day. 

Key points from the discussion included: 

  • Municipalities and communities that rely on the oil industry for revenue face challenges during the transition. While they do not receive taxes directly from oil production, they benefit from taxes related to the sale of oil and gasoline and need to explore alternative sources of income. 
  • There are many political responses to climate change, including new policies, instruments, energy market designs, and regulations to promote a faster transition to net zero emissions. However, it is not clear to society what has already been achieved. Perhaps we need to change the way we communicate to the public about the progress made but also about the future scenarios.  
  • There is a need for public policies that can improve the lives of people, especially the poor and marginalised, while decarbonizing. Reality checks are hitherto missing.  
  • There are different levels of institutional capacity and economic situations among Latin American countries. However, all countries face vulnerability to climate change impacts and wealth inequalities. Working together, decision-makers and academics can bridge knowledge gaps.   
  • Complex challenges are ahead of us. Models are not able to incorporate all of the complexity of the real world. Other methods are needed to take issues like inequality, quality of life and human behaviour into account and complement the models with narratives.  
  • Results from the ENGAGE project also underline the need to take a broader perspective than only focussing on climate change in order to ensure that proposed solutions do not create other environmental problems. 

The second day of the meeting started with a presentation by Alexandre Szklo (COPPE) on the decarbonization plan for Pernambuco state. Based on the downscaling of global models and results from one Brazilian model. The results showed that the barriers to reducing emissions include: unburned fossil resources (stranded assets); carbon lock-in; and equity (just transition) issues. Furthermore, model results suggested that investments in new oil refineries could be necessary. In the discussion, attention focussed on the “hard-to-abate sectors”, for which high abatement costs seem to be a major barrier to reducing emissions.  

This was followed by a “storytelling session”. Samanta Della Bella (General Manager of Climate Change. Secretary of Environment and Sustainability of Pernambuco) described her experience in Pernambuco state in the Northeast of Brazil, a region facing desertification and high poverty rates. A trajectory was planned until 2050, based on socio-economic modelling. Short- and long-term indicators were established. The main challenges are implementing and monitoring the plan. Creating the roadmap was personally demanding, requiring patience, communication, and a commitment to moving forward. 

Jhonathan Godoy (Coordinator, local HUB Pernambuco of the Youth Climate Leaders) shared the story of the Climate Professional Day in the Youth Climate Leaders organisation. As a facilitator and coordinator, he aimed to discuss climate-related work on various levels beyond academia and research. They developed an educational project to study the mangroves in his city. The team discovered the importance of mangroves in carbon sequestration and how deforestation of the ecosystem led to flooding, affecting the lives and income of the communities living near them. To raise awareness, they collaborated with local artists to create a web documentary that explored environmental and social issues. The initiative served as an eye-opening experience for those in the community who previously did not associate their challenges with climate change.  

Andres Akerberg (Executive Director Política y Legislación Ambiental (POLEA), Mexico City) described how he worked closely with decision-makers to promote climate legislation at the national level in Mexico. Over the course of three years, his team successfully updated Mexico’s climate law and implemented new laws in 11 out of 32 states. The process is still ongoing in another seven states and has also served as a form of “collective therapy,” as Andres described it, going beyond technical and legal aspects to engage as many people as possible.  

In the discussion after these three stories, more stories were added by other participants, including from Eva Marina Valencia Leñero, who worked to create a coalition in Mexico City focused on the concept of doughnut economics. Further discussions focussed on the issue of deforestation in Brazil, which is complex and requires that loopholes in regulations are addressed. Tackling the deforestation issue requires a holistic approach that considers the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of the problem.  

The meeting ended with a “World Café“ discussing a series of “hot topics” that had been identified during the meeting.   

At a table focussing on the use of models, the participants emphasised the need to improve integrated assessment models by addressing their limitations, incorporating broader sustainable development aspects, and better reflecting real-world complexities, such as human behaviour and uncertainty. At a second table on cross-scale linkages, the discussion highlighted the need for a coordinated approach to sustainable development that connects top-down and bottom-up policies, considers local specificities, and promotes capacity building and technological development at all levels. This linked to a third table that focussed on the interplay between the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and mitigation efforts to achieve a low-carbon, 1.5oC scenario. A fourth group discussed key feasibility concerns with respect to decarbonization at the national level and concluded that institutional concerns, particularly law enforcement, are the primary feasibility issue, with examples from Brazil and Mexico highlighting the volatility of enforcement depending on the political regime. The group also noted the challenges faced by top-down approaches, which may not consider local community needs, and the importance of combining them with bottom-up approaches for success. 

In a final round, participants were asked to reflect on the meeting. Participants felt that the meeting demonstrated the need for dialogue and communication to strengthen cooperation in achieving societal goals, while also showing the challenge of communicating complex information. Members of the ENGAGE project team noted their learning about Latin America as a whole, including the interest of several countries in the region in producing more ambitious decarbonization plans. The team members also noted the discussions about the usefulness of models in thinking consistently about the future, while recognizing that the use of models is only one part of supporting the transition to a low-carbon future. Looking ahead, while it is clear that other states and countries could benefit from the use of integrated assessment models and approaches, there is a need for capacity building in the Latin American region to develop the models and continue the dialogue between researchers and other stakeholders. 



Achieving Net-Zero in Brazil and Latin America w/hot topics in Latin America 
Roberto Schaeffer (COPPE) 

National Dashboards/Climate Solutions Explorer (Interactive Session) 
Ed Byers (IIASA) 

Presentation on sub-national implementation of decarbonization pathways 
Alexandre Szklo (COPPE)